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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Sunday, December 4, 2022
Growing Together: Still plenty of fall chores to be done in garden
Dig out your canna and dry the bulbs in the sun before storing. Joanne Young

Over the last three weeks I have been writing about things that you can still be doing in your garden before winter sets in.

I am certainly not trying to rush the onset of winter. It has been such a beautiful fall and as far as I am concerned it could stay like this until spring.

But experience tells me that, like it or not, winter is on its way. Here are a few more fall garden chores to tackle before packing up the garden gear.

Remove annuals from containers and gardens: As of late October, we still hadn’t had a killing frost in Niagara, but the annuals have had a great season.

It is best to remove them, including root balls, in the fall so that any disease or pest problem isn’t overwintering and becoming a problem for your new plants next year.

If you compost, you can cut up your annuals and add them to your compost bin or use them in your lasagna garden. Only use material that is disease-free.

Dig and store your summer blooming bulbs: Plants such as canna lilies, calla lilies, dahlias, gladiolas etc. will not survive our winter if left in the ground.

Once the first frost has touched the leaves and they begin to turn black, it is time to dig up the bulbs or tubers and store them inside for the winter.

When digging up the plants, start by putting your shovel or garden fork in the ground away from the base of the plant so as not to damage the bulbs. Cut the stem and leaves off close to the bulb.

Remove as much soil as possible from the bulbs before placing them in an open cardboard box, bushel basket or mesh-type bag. Do not put them in a closed plastic container. Keep bulbs for the winter in a cool, dark, dry spot like a fruit cellar.

Plant spring bulbs: It is not too late to plant your spring blooming bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, crocus, hyacinths, alliums and snowdrops.

Follow the information on the packages to know how deep to plant. If no instructions are included, the general rule is to plant them three times deeper than the diameter of the bulb (so, if the bulb is two inches wide, plant six inches deep).

Bring in your house plants: If you haven’t brought your house plants and tropical plants in for the winter yet – do it now.

Most need to come in before the temperature goes down to 5C. Make sure you clean up the plants and remove any leaves with insect or disease problems.

If you have had insect issues, you may want to spray them with Safer’s Soap before bringing the plant inside. Once plants are inside, you can expect them to drop some leaves as they transition to their new home with different light and humidity conditions.

Planting trees and shrubs: You can still plant trees and shrubs now. When the air temperature is cooler, but the soil temperature is warm, there is still plenty of root growth happening.

I would not recommend planting perennials at this time, especially if they are in smaller pots, as the frost could heave them out of the ground.

Cut back some perennials: Once your perennials have gone dormant, it is a good idea to cut back some of them and clean up the leaves. This is true for any perennials that had insect or disease problems this past season.

Certain perennials should not be cut back in the fall, though. Evergreen or semi-evergreen perennials like dianthus, heuchera, heucherella, tiarella, creeping Phlox, ajuga and red hot pokers should not be cut back.

Also, perennials with woody stems like perennial hibiscus, Russian sage, lavender, and butterfly bush should be left until spring before they are cut back.

I like to leave any perennial that will offer winter interest and can also provide seeds for birds. Varieties such as baptisia, coneflowers, ornamental grasses, sedum and helleborus can give some life to your garden throughout winter.

Hopefully the good weather continues and we can enjoy some more time in our gardens.

Joanne Young is a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden expert and coach. See her website at joanneyoung.ca.