Fall is the professional landscaper’s secret weapon. It is the best time of year to fix problems or make wonderful things happen in the garden. Here’s how…
1. The time to plant your new garden
2. Boost your garden’s rose factor
3. Facing your fix-its
1. The time to plant your new garden
Most home gardeners assume that spring is the best time to build and plant out a new garden, and yes, it is a good time to do some things – like pop a few plants into the post-winter gaps or work on a small project. But a fall project is every landscaper’s dream and here is how you can work it too…
Tip one: if you’re planning to plant a new garden bed or entire garden, this is the best of times. The potential for summer’s heat to cook new plants is behind you and you’ve plenty of softly sunny days ahead to help get any plant settled in before winter arrives. How much time you have to work with does obviously depend on where you live, but the reason professionals make god use of this time of year is that they know they’ll benefit from both the fall and then the coming spring. It’s like having two great growing seasons working for you wrapped either side of winter – and if you live in a warm or hot climate, winter can often be kinder to plants than summer.
Tip two: here’s another good reason to plant in fall. If you head off to the garden center in spring, while the plants you find there are healthy, they can sometimes look a little young. Head down in fall and you’ll often find the plant stock that’s available has beefed up and is looking ready to hop out of those pots and into your garden beds. Take advantage of this – and any sales – but be sure to tip a few out to inspect the roots. If it looks like the plant has lived for too long, crowded into that pot, leave it behind.
Tip three: Scheduling a significant garden makeover in fall is a practical decision from a garden-users viewpoint. In nice weather, you don’t want to have anyone ripping your perfectly functional (if tired) old garden out. But you’d be happy for them to do it when you’re less likely to be entertaining outdoors on warm evenings. Likewise, few landscapers enjoy the pressure of working around clients who need access to the garden – it makes for unnecessary tidying up of a site in transition. This is why fall is such a good time to tackle an especially large project. If it goes over time, no one will be too inconvenienced.
2. Boost your garden’s rose factor
Fall is the time to make your rosey dreams come true. By dreams, we’re talking about how every gardener – surely without exception – has dreamt of having roses in the garden in the way you see them in magazines. Sprays of bloom-laden branches falling across paths and gateways; rose-flowering mounds set into flower filled garden beds; astonishingly bold and contemporary swathes of roses massed along the drive. And here’s how…
Tip one: You need to be smart about what roses you plant. If you are a master rose grower, you relish growing the fussiest of roses, and you know how to cater to each one’s quirks, great. Pick whatever. You know what you’re about, and you’ll enjoy the challenge and the results. But if you’re like the rest of us – the dreamers who aren’t too sure what to do – then you need to grow roses that are well behaved. Ask at your garden center to have them pointed out to you and you’ll probably find something like Flower Carpet, Sweet Spot or Smooth Touch roses. Then plant each one with due care but no stress as once they are established, these roses will grow, and grow, and when they are ready, smother themselves to become a rose vision that makes you go, ‘Ahhh!’.
Tip two: you may already have some of these roses, but time has passed and you now feel that they could do with a bit of a boost. There are two approaches you could take. If you’re in a warm climate and are aiming for a quick tidy-up to boost the flowering, then give your Flower Carpet rose bushes a light shearing with the hedge clippers (yes, that’s right, no time-consuming pruner-action here). But if you’ve some old bushes that need some serious renovation, once they’re dormant (December thru April, depending on your location) cut them back hard. Come spring you’ll be in for a real treat.
3. Facing your fix-ups
If we’re honest, every garden has something that needs fixing. And whether they are fun or not, fall is one of the best time’s of year to tackle them. Why? Possibly because the weather is kinder, but mostly because there’s no point putting them off any longer…
Irrigation: If you have a new boggy patch in the garden bed or a suspicious dry zone across the last third of the lawn, you probably have a boggy-break or a drought-block in your irrigation. Gather together your tools and that little bag of irrigation spare parts, and start poking around. The trick is to act more like an archaeologist than a dam buster. Breaks are quickly fixed by neatly trimming and splicing in a new section of pie. Dry zones are usually caused by water being prevented from reaching a zone: look for kinked, flattened or blocked pipes. Flushing will fix the blockages and splices will sort the rest.
Loose pavers: Everyone has a loose paver, a wobbly brick in the edging, and a rotten wooden riser in the railroad tie steps. If you commit to fixing these you will be very surprised at how little effort and time it ends up taking (well, usually) and you’ll probably feel silly that you didn’t do it sooner. Lift the loose paver and clean out all the grit and debris that has probably been settling in around and under it. Mix up some ‘mud’, aka cement, and set it back into place checking the level is spot on. Follow up with grouting material to match the existing aged grout. Do the same with the brick, and it may be a good idea to trim back any tree roots if they were guilty of pushing the brick edging out of line. The most difficult part of the railroad tie repair is working out how to avoid using a fresh raw tie in open view as its replacement. Look around and see if you can find one elsewhere in the garden where it’s not so visible. Prop up the step tread while you swap the rotten tie for the found replacement, and then take a good look at the rotten one. Rolled over it might be good enough to put into that not so visible spot where the substitute came from.
Dull paving and decking: Some people love the patina of a weathered surface. They can’t wait for a fresh concrete path to soften and age, and for the timber of a decked area to turn silver-grey. But then there are others who love the original look and want to bring it back. Sometimes it’s also a matter of necessity rather than aesthetic preferences as aged surfaces can become slippery underfoot. Whatever your reason, if you think it’s time to do something, the fix will provide you with a day of fun. Hire, borrow or buy a pressure washer and use it.give it a try because it is seriously good fun. Then, if you’ve been cleaning a deck, let it dry thoroughly before giving it a coat of deck paint, stain or oil. Do your research about what you put on it, and check the application instructions, but a cheap mop and a paint tray is a very quick & easy way to do it.
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