It’s that time of year, the leaves are changing, the nights are cool and it’s time to start putting our gardens to bed. Cutting back early blooming perennials and enjoying those last, late bloomers and the colors they add – a welcome sight at the end of the season before the long season of brown. Fall is a great time to divide many of our favorite perennials both to spread the love through the bed and to help encourage new growth and health next spring. But which perennials prefer to be divided in the fall?
The following prefer to be divided in the late summer/fall:
Bleeding Heart, Coral Bells, Coreopsis, Hosta, Daylilies, Iris, Ornamental Grasses, Garden Phlox and Peony
To divide these items cut back the foliage so that after being moved the plant can focus on putting it’s energy into creating new roots. Some perennials can be divided right in the ground by splitting off a piece with a sharp shovel or trowel. For others it may be easier to dig up the entire clump, turn it on it’s side and use a sharp shovel or an old kitchen knife to cut the root ball into pieces. All other perennials can be cut back and neatened up. Tender perennials can be mulched with wood mulch or leaves and any late season weeds pulled out. Now the garden is ready to take it’s long winter rest.
Fall is also the time to be thinking about spring and planting some fall bulbs. Dividing spring blooming bulbs can also be done at this time. Bulbs must be divided every few years to encourage new growth and ensure a large amount of blooms. We often get asked which spring bulbs can be planted in fall that are “deer proof”. It’s very discouraging to spend time in the fall planting bulbs that only end up getting eaten by the pesky deer. The following bulbs are considered “deer-proof”:
Daffodils (Narcissus), Grape Hyacinth (Muscari), Mountain Bells (Allium – most Alliums are deer resistant), Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa), Oxalis, Camassia and Snow Bells
October is also the time to be thinking forward with other types of bulbs like Garlic. Typically the first week of October is standard for planting garlic in our zone. Place the cloves 6” – 8” apart at least 3” – 4” deep and cover with a light coating of straw. The garlic cloves should sprout this fall before the ground freezes – this is OK. They will get frosted and die again, but this helps get their roots established to they have a better head start in the spring.
A little work in the fall can help perennials get a fresh start in the spring, create a stunning bulb display next year and get a head start on veggies for next season. Enjoy those last golden days in the garden.