Big yellow school buses are on the road again … or at least a few of them. Tree leaves in the swamps are turning red. Frost and cold weather are sneaking up on us. This year I resolve to get my garden put to bed early so that I am not wearing gloves and long johns as I cut back the daylilies and other perennials on cold, wet fall days. Here is what I am doing now — or will do soon.
First on my list is the need to sow some grass seed. I have places where my lawn was killed when a torrential downpour dumped sand from the road onto the lawn. Fall is a better time to sow seed than the spring because the ground is warmer, and it will germinate quickly. In the spring, seed can rot during cold, wet weather.
I will spread some topsoil or compost to improve the soil, then mix it in with a short-tined rake. After spreading seed, I will cover it with a layer of straw. That will help to keep the soil and seeds from drying out, though I will water occasionally if the soil gets dry.
Chrysanthemums are for sale now at farm stands, and I purchased a few pots of them to brighten up the front yard. I treat them as annuals, even though some of them are perennials. But the growers cut back the plants as they grow, causing them to branch out and produce hundreds of blossoms on bigger plants. If I let them over-winter, the plants would have some flowers, but never so many as what the professionals produce. To me, it’s worth it to buy a few each fall.
Mums in pots tend to dry out quickly, so I have been soaking mine in my birdbath. That way the pots suck up water, getting it down deep. I could actually plant my mums in the ground, but I like them in pots on the front steps or in my wooden wheelbarrow. They need water every few days.
This is also the time of year when I move shrubs. I recently moved a Diervilla, one called “Kodiak,” which was given to me years ago. It was crowded in between a crab apple tree and a red-veined Enkianthus. I decided it needed more space to grow, and I wanted to expose a stone wall behind it. So I dug it up.
This shrub is about 3 feet tall and wide, and it had been in the ground more than five years. I used a shovel called a drain spade, a spade with a long, narrow blade. I pushed it into the ground at a 45-degree angle in four places around the bush. Each time I pushed the shovel handle down to lift the shrub slightly. Then, when I’d gone all around it, I got the spade under the middle of the plant, pushed down hard, and popped it right out.
I tugged on the plant