Homeowners in diverse regions, gardening zones and styled spaces are all motivated to begin fall gardening chores for various reasons. Whatever the intention, and whichever the landscape style or region, the following tips can enliven any outdoor space as the chill of autumn sets in.
Trade Summer-shabby Turf for Fall Plants
Harsh summer conditions can do appalling things to a lawn, leaving it dry, brown and, for all practical purposes, dead. It is becoming an annual trend to give worn-out, sun-dried turf a new look for fall by replacing or substituting it with creeping perennial plants. This updated, longer-lasting alternative to traditional lawns can be easily created by adding an array of hardy plant varieties like Stepables (www.stepables.com), the line of over 140 creeping perennial plants that withstand, and even thrive in, foot traffic.
"Creeping perennials have thousands of tiny, compact root nodes that firmly grasp the soil," says Fran Hopkins, founder and CEO of Under A Foot Plant Company and creator of Stepables. "When you and your kids step on them with the soles of your feet, they will vigorously take root; the more they are walked on, the faster they will creep across the landscape." Using low-growing plants like Stepables instead of grass is also a means of being green-friendly, since they need no mowing and less watering, fertilizer, and chemicals than common, resource-eating lawns.
Prune for Autumn Rejuvenation
Fall is the best time to prune woody plants, after summer growth has completed developing for the season. Plants that need to be thinned or de-limbed should be pruned for the health of the plant, human safety reasons and, finally, for landscape aesthetics. Most homeowners, even master gardeners with true green thumbs, dread the possibility of dismembering a living thing in their yards. But like a bad hair cut, most badly pruned trees and shrubs do grow back.
For pruning like the pros, proper tools are essential. Gardener's Edge by A.M. Leonard (www.gardenersedge.com) has created a beginner's pruning kit that includes small specialty shears, hand pruners and a tri-edge folding saw. The size of branches to be pruned and the amount of pruning to be accomplished will determine which tool should be used. Essential tools and techniques for pruning include a sturdy, comfortable pair of pruning gloves; clean, sharp equipment; specialty and hand shears for branches up to a quarter inch in diameter; loppers for branches up to an inch in diameter; and a pruning saw for limbs larger than an inch in diameter.
Once the pruning is complete, clean all gardening tools. Sharpen pruners, mower blades and shears to be ready when spring arrives. Clean hand tools and garden shovels by removing dirt with a wire brush, and rust with steel wool or light sandpaper. Spray metal hand-tool parts with lubricant oil, which will help to fight rust build-up over winter. Last, worn or ragged edges on tools should be sharpened with a file and stored in a dry place.
Add Garden Markers for Stand-out Fall Foliage
Foliage plants provide color, shape, texture and interest to the garden even when blooms are absent. Creative tags, markers and garden labels for fall perennial foliage complement the traditional practice of spotting blooms on flowering perennials and shrubs during spring and summer. For an artistic way to identify and take pleasure in out-of-bloom foliage plants during fall and winter, add a garden marker or plant ID tag with botanical and common names at the base of each.
Every plant from the Garden Splendor line (www.gardensplendor.com) comes with its own Remember Me garden marker. "These anodized aluminum labels identify and mark the location of foliage plants for years to come," says David Wilson, marketing director for Garden Splendor. "They allow gardeners and visitors the chance to identify foliage plants for their texture and color, and appreciate the ability to point them out by name." Two such plants with bright fall foliage are Hakonechloa All Gold and Coreopsis Pinwheel. To supplement fall foliage, add a fall-blooming vine such as Clematis Daniel Deronda.