SALT LAKE CITY — Gardening doesn’t stop after the dog days of summer end.
Fall is the time to lay your preparations for spring and get your garden back into shape. Below are five suggestions to keep your green thumb active as the harvest of summer ends.
Clean It Up
Take advantage of that slow plant growth in the fall and clean up your gardening space. Pull all plants and weeds and rake up any fallen leaves or litter. Trim shrubs or trees, especially those with branches threatening to break under the weight of heavy snow.
Take the time to combat perennial weeds like dandelion or morning glory by treating them with your preferred method before winter sets in.
Finish it off with a tilling and composting.
Your garden just underwent a summer full of giving life and growing. Replace some nutrients by fertilizing the soil with the copious amount of dead leaves and flowers gathering in your yard. Break the fallen leaves up by running a lawn mower over those on the ground for your brown material. If you have some green kitchen waste on hand – like vegetable peelings and fruit rinds – or you have access to manure, gather that as well.
OrganicGardening.com recommends layering the green and brown material with a couple shovelfulls of gardening soil in a compost pile or bin, then moistening the compost-to-be. Rotate the mixture with a pitchfork every couple of weeks until it is decomposed, then spread over your tilled garden.
Utah State University recommends just spreading the crushed, dead leaves mixed with ammonium sulfate over a tilled garden. It recommends using 1 pound of nitrogen to every 1 inch of leaves in a 100-square-foot area.
Plant Bulbs and Seeds
Before the ground freezes, plant spring-blooming bulbs – think tulip, allium and daffodil bulbs in your flower garden. To add maximum impact with fewer bulbs in an area, USU recommends planting the bulbs randomly, as opposed to geometrically.
If you want the flowers to come back again and again, find an area with good drainage and follow proper mowing practices following the plants’ spring blooms. Bulbous plants that naturalize well in Utah, according to USU, are daffodils, narcissus, crocus, drumstick allium, Asiatic lilies, galanthus and muscari.
In warm Washington County, gardeners who want to get a head-start on their spring vegetable garden planting can still sow seed of vegetables that over-winter well like onions, carrots and spinach within the next few days, USU said.
Plant Nursery Plants
Work on creating that backyard oasis by planting nursery stock – woody plants, vines and shrubs – before the ground freezes. Many plants are on-sale, nurseries tend to be less busy and the cool weather makes an easier transition for these plants from container to ground, according to USU.
Spend some time inside as you get seeds ready for spring. As you gather your final harvest of fruits and some vegetables, preserve the seeds for next year easily.
The University of Minnesota has tips on its website for preserving tomato, pea, bean and pepper seeds. It recommends saving only heirloom-variety seeds, as cross-pollination and hybridization can affect the taste of plants.
For pumpkins or other squash, save the seeds by scooping out the strings and pulp and rinsing away the pulp. Place the seeds on a screen or a paper-towel for a week. If using the paper towel method, turn the seeds to evenly dry each side. Store in an envelope or jar until you’re ready to plant.