In fall, I get excited about planting spring potential: tulips, daffodils, crocus, allium and more fall bulbs are on garden centre shelves. Fall is also a great time to move and divide perennials.
You know how much I like gardening work lists, but I will admit I am just not ready to start my fall one yet. The calendar hasn’t officially turned to autumn, and I am trying to squeeze the last little bit of summer in. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day, worthy of enjoying watering annual flowers, puttering to pull a few weeds, and picking ripe tomatoes. Today, not so much and I think the gardens will see some heavy rain by the time you are reading this article. On a brighter note, I’ll think about spring potential instead of feeling bad about the end of summer on this cool grey day.
When garden centre shelves are full of colourful packages of tulips, daffodils, crocus, allium and more, I can’t help getting a bit excited about planting some of that spring potential. After a long cold winter, nothing says spring more than seeing that first bulb bloom! I know it is too soon to plant fall bulbs, but I always make my choices early so that I have the best selection to consider. I have already scoped out the spots in my gardens where there is room for low, mid-height and tall flowering bulbs.
I saw a post in an Ontario vegetable gardening group that an excited new gardener had already bought her garlic bulbs and planted them. She had been following all the garlic harvesting posts in mid summer and was inspired to plant some for the first time. Unfortunately, it is just to early to plant garlic and other bulbs. The goal is to have strong roots develop in fall so the bulbs get off to a healthy start in spring as the soil warms enough for top growth. If bulbs are planted too early, top growth can happen in fall and that is not desirable.
So, if you are buying any of your bulbs now, be sure to store them in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area until soil temperatures really cool down. In our area, bulb planting time is usually mid to late October. Check your bulbs often to ensure they do not show any sign of mould or desiccation while you wait for the optimum planting time.
It is ok for me that planting time is still more than a month away. I do have quite a bit of garden prep before those bulbs can go in the ground. Although my new garden is still full of healthy annuals blooming like crazy, I will have to clean it out in preparation for moving the displaced perennials back home. I need those out of the vegetable garden so I can prep the area for garlic planting!
Fall is a great time to move and divide perennials. Spring and summer blooming varieties can be done as soon as they start to look a bit ‘fallish’. I have a few friends and neighbours who are waiting for some pieces of plants they saw blooming earlier in the season. Number one on the list is some very large clumps of primrose that are ready to be divided. I want to move some to the new garden and will be so happy to see those happy flowers next spring! I also have to clean out some of the ‘volunteer’ clumps of heliopsis that have seeded around. They are crowding out a few less vigorous plants.
If you have late blooming perennials like I do, they can be divided in spring. Right now, the bees are just loving the sedum, aster, and anemone flowers! It would be a shame to disturb them now. However, if you don’t have the option to wait for spring, it is best to sacrifice the bloom when dividing. You want all the plant’s energy to be used towards healthy new root growth, so the clump settles in well for the winter. You could also wait a few weeks and let the pollinators have a bit more time in the garden before those late bloomers are worked on.
If you have extra weed-free plants that you can pop into a stray pot or any kind of container, you can label and donate them to the Horticultural Society. They have a plant sale every spring with funds raised used to help support local community gardens.