Fall garden cleanup to prepare plants for long winter’s nap

by Catherine Haug, October 4, 2013

While I  was on my September road trip, I came across an excellent article in the Spokesman Review that fits right in with the topic of our upcoming October gathering on Gathering Notice: Preparing your Garden for Winter, with Ronny Honthaas, October 16, 2013.  The article is available on the Spokesman Review website: Fall clean-up prepares plants for long winter’s nap, by Susan Mulvihill.

Here are some highlights from the article:

Fall Cleanup in the Garden and Landscape

The following are quotes Susan obtained from Tim Kohlhauff, urban horticulture coordinator for Spokane County Extension:

General recommendations

  • “Make sure your trees and shrubs have plenty of water going into winter, [as] they tend do lose water through the winter – especially evergreens…”
  • “Mulching is a great way to protect the roots of perennials, trees and shrubs,” by keeping the soil moist and preventing damage from freeze-thaw cycles.
  • “Get rid of any diseases or insect-infested plant tissue.”
  • “Weed your garden well in the fall to eliminate hosts for disease and insects.”
  • “Fall is a good time for planting trees and shrubs” [See below for more detail]

Pruning and thinning

  • “Fall is a great time to remove dead wood from woody plants, but for most trees and shrubs, it’s a good idea to wait for leaves to drop before doing any major pruning work.
  • Prune to the ground raspberry and blackberry canes that bore fruit this past summer. However, if yours are everbearing or fall bearing, this doesn’t apply, because they “bear fruit at the ends of the current year’s canes, and can produce another crop on the lower part of the cane the following summer.” If you want the two crops, don’t prune until after the lower cane has finished bearing. “Otherwise, prune all canes to the ground in the fall for one larger crop in late summer or early fall of the next year.”
  • Don’t prune fruit tress (such as a apple, pear, cherry, peach, plum) until late winter/early spring.
  • Shrubs that bloom in the spring: lilacs, forsythia and cherries “should only be pruned in early sumer, right after they have finished blooming. Pruning in the fall will sacrifice some of the next springs blooms,” as they begin to set buds for the next year during the summer.
  • “Summer-flowering trees and shrubs bloom from buds that are produced earlier in the same year,” so “pruning them int he fall won’t remove flower buds.”
  • About roses: “fall pruning should be limited to the removal of taller rose canes that can be damaged from winter winds or bending beneath heavy snow.” More extensive pruning should be left for spring.
  • “Divide spring and summer-flowering perennials and transplant broad-leaf evergreens in the fall, and divide late summer and fall-blooming plants in the spring.



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