Make the Cooler Weather Work in Your Landscape
These No-Sweat Fixes Bring Year-Round Benefits
Fall is the landscaper’s secret weapon. It is the best time of year to fix problems or make wonderful things happen in the garden. Here are some tips on how you can make the cooler weather work for you and your landscape.
- 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.
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 have plenty of softly sunny days ahead to help get any plant settled in before winter arrives. Plants will 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 in our warm/hot climate, winter can often be kinder to plants than summer.
Tip two: 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) 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, especially during a large project. If it goes overtime, no one will be too inconvenienced.
- Boost your garden’s rose factor
Fall is the time to make your “rosey” dreams come true — those dreams 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; and astonishingly bold and contemporary swathes of roses massed along the drive.
Tip one: 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, you can pick any rose because you’ll enjoy the challenge and the results. But if you’re like the rest of us who aren’t too sure how to tend to roses, then you need to grow roses that are well-behaved. Ask at your garden center and you’ll probably find something like Flower Carpet, Sweet Spot or Smooth Touch roses. Then plant each one with due care, but don’t stress because once they are established, these roses will grow, and grow, and become a vision of roses that makes you say “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 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 (no time-consuming pruner-action needed). But if you have some old bushes that need some serious renovation, cut them back hard once they’re dormant, which in our area is generally January. Come spring, you’ll be in for a real treat.
- Facing your fix-ups
Every garden has something that needs fixing. And whether they are fun or not, fall is one of the best times of the year to tackle them. Why? Possibly because the weather is kinder, but also 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 pipe. 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. Commit to fixing these, and you will be pleasantly surprised at how little effort and time it ends up taking (well, usually). 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 that 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. If 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 others 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. 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 and easy way to do this.