Describing autumn in Calgary is a bit like trying to describe when exactly young adults become just adults. For the most part, our area has summer and then it has winter. There maybe a week or two of transition, but most often the seasons change seemingly overnight. This means if you want to get your lawn and garden ready for winter before the first snow fall, it’s a good idea to get started now.
Evaluate Bare Areas.
Whether you have some extra space in your garden, took out spent annuals, or have a patch of lawn that didn’t survive, now is the time to determine whether any bare areas could use soil amendments, like compost or worm castings. If you plan on top dressing your entire yard, this is also the time to do that. If it’s early enough in the season, you can also consider reseeding your lawn and planting hardy bulbs, like tulips.
Anywhere bare soil is exposed to the elements should be covered in a 2 inch layer of mulch or 3 inches of aggregate to prevent erosion and control weeds. If you plan on using the area for plants in the future, mulch is likely the better option. Mulch will slowly decompose adding rich nutrients to the soil, while rocks are a more permanent solution which, in the future, may be frustrating to work around if you decide to create a flowerbed.
Complete Autumn Maintenance.
Beyond the usual weeding, watering, and mowing, there are a few chores that you should aim to complete before the snow comes. First, deadhead faded blooms by pinching or cutting off spent flowers. Using a knife or your fingers, remove the stem below the flower and just above the highest set of full, healthy leaves. If you have non-hardy bulbs, you’ll have to dig them out for winter storage. Spring or summer perennials that have gotten too large and are overgrown can be divided.
In general, perennials can tolerate being divided every 3-6 years, and both plants will benefit from invigorated growth. Water the plant well the days before you divide it, and wait for a cloudy day or a cool evening to actually dig the plant up. Start 6-12 inches from the centre of the plant and begin to dig in a circle around the plant. Once the circle is complete, use your shovel to pry the plant and the soil from the rest of the bed. Remove any weak or sickly stems. Divide up the remaining healthy stems into two clumps. Use a soil knife to cut straight through the root clump so that the two separated, healthy stem clumps become two individual plants with several stems each. One plant can go back in the hole you just dug it out of, the other can be placed anywhere needing a new plant. Offer both plants nutrient-rich garden soil and a root-promoting fertilizer. Water both plants every couple of days.
One chore you can likely scratch off your fall clean up list is raking. A layer of leaves is healthy for your yard. As they decompose, they’ll turn into rich organic matter and provide a great food source for your plants. Mow your lawn right over the leaves to help shred them up into proper leaf mulch. If you have several trees, and your leaves have created a thick layer on the ground, you unfortunately will have to rake them up. When the layer of leaves is too thick, it holds in too much water causing your wood mulch and perennials to rot. Any raked leaves can go in your compost bin.
The sudden switch from summer to winter often catches Calgarians off guard. Don’t let the seasonal switch sneak up on you! We make ordering any mulch, garden mix, or aggregates you need easy, so that you aren’t procrastinating until it’s too late. Get your yard ready for winter now. Call Soil Kings at 403-452-LOAM (5626) or buy online.