Time For The Annual Fall Garden Cleanup

Hydrangea in difference colors

Fall is here, and winter is on its way. With that, East End gardeners begin preparing for the change in seasons, and The Bayberry’s Arja Berg, Buckley’s Garden Center’s Charles Limonius, and Eastland Farms’ Jodi Cesta have some tips and tricks up their sleeves.

Limonius, the nursery production manager at Buckley’s in East Hampton, who has a farm in Riverhead, said “People always think about the spring cleaning of their house. They should also think about a fall cleaning of the garden. Removing unwanted weeds, broken and damaged branches on shrubs.”

Berg, while semi-retired, still plays a role at the Amagansett landscape design garden where she was manager for 20 years. She believes it’s best to keep things simple.

“I remove leaves, and mow shorter,” she said.

October is an ideal time to plant your bulbs, according to Berg. Start as early as September, and continue until the first hard frost, usually in November. Bulbs that are planted later will also bloom later in their first spring, but will bloom in their natural cycle the following year, she said. Berg does not favor fertilizing in the fall, with the exception being bulbs.

“It is hard to know where they are,” she said, suggesting photographing the bulbs when they are in bloom in the spring, with the images serving as her roadmap for where to fertilize in the fall.

Limonius likes to put down organic fertilizer, such as manure, for evergreens and perennials. “The root system is the battery system for plants,” he said. He also likes to put some manure down in vegetable gardens, along with some lime.

At Farmland in Water Mill, Cesta and her crew lays down some mulch, with leaves being ideal, since they eventually turn into topsoil.

How about those hydrangeas? If you like them blue, Limonius likes to apply a little aluminum sulfite in the ground in the fall, and add a little more in the spring.

Have a sprinkler or irrigation system? All agree you should flush it out for the winter, with November’s first hard frost being the latest time to do so. Limonius likes to keep the plants going until that time. “You still want sun to make photosynthesis,” he said.

One error frequently made in the garden is overly-aggressive cutting.

“The most common mistake is to cut back shrubs too hard,” Berg said, especially of ornamental grasses. “I like to keep them over the winter. It gives structure to the garden. They can be cut back when they are looking scraggly.”

Perennial plants should be cut, but Berg warned, “You shouldn’t cut back roses in the fall.”

So, roll up those sleeves and hit that garden for your annual cleaning.

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