Perennials are the backbone of most gardens, returning year after year with glorious color and fragrance.
To keep these hard-working garden plants healthy, they need a little TLC at the end of the summer. Let’s prepare your perennials for fall and winter with these gardening tips.
Dig Up Bulbs
All perennial flower bulbs should be dug up and stored in a cool, dry place for the winter. After the first frost in early fall is the right time to dig up flower bulbs.
Trim off any remaining top greenery, shake off loose soil, wrap each bulb individually in newspaper, label them and store until next spring.
Perennial flower bulbs can remain in the ground in climates that have mild winters. Apply 4 inches (10 cm) of mulch or fallen leaves on top of the soil to protect them during the winter.
A fall feeding with compost for plants that will remain in ground during the winter is a great way to send energy to the roots system so as soon as the soil warms up in spring, the perennials will be ready to grow.
Apply a 4-6 inch (10 – 12 cm) layer of compost to flower beds, around shrubs and bushes. gently work the compost into the soil, being careful not to disturb plant roots.
The compost will slowly decompose during the fall and winter, leaching down into the soil to improve soil structure and provide nutrition to plant roots.
Give perennials one final watering in late fall, after the plants have been fed and cut back.
In climates that have dry winters with soil that rarely freezes and very little snow, water perennials once a month to keep them alive and healthy.
In all other climates, don’t water plants again after the final watering in fall to enable them to harden off in preparation for winter.
Prune shrubs, bushes and cut back all foliage on tall growing perennial flowers, like bee balm.
Prune flowers back to 6 inches (15 cm) above soil level. Remove all dead, damaged, diseased or crisscrossed branches from shrubs and bushes, then shape them as desired.
Feed, water and prune perennials at the same time in late summer or early fall to get them prepared for winter.
Apply Fresh Mulch
If you live in a cold climate, apply a fresh layer of organic mulch to perennials after the ground freezes.
Pine bark, pine needles, straw, etc., make ideal mulches and will improve soil structure as they decompose.
If you live in a mild climate, apply a fresh layer of organic mulch after feeding, watering and pruning for the last time in fall.