Are you wondering just where to begin in the garden this autumn?   I certainly do NOT have solutions to all your gardening issues, but maybe this guide will help.

It’s a tricky time of year. The garden is still producing (I’m talking only flowers here) with Dahlias, Asters, Sunflowers, Zinnias, Cannas and on an on.  But then there are also those perennials that are totally brown. To cut them back or leave them?

Rudbeckia that is well past its prime! To cut back or leave?

And the flowers that didn’t perform as well as you had hoped: was it the soil? Or maybe too much or too little water? Heat? In the wrong spot?

Believe me, we ALL have questions and problems with our gardens, no matter how experienced we are.

Once upon a time these were gorgeous pink phlox! They bloomed for a longer time this summer but are now so bedraggled…

Let’s set up priorities for your garden and for you:

1. Pull out…yes, be ruthless… all those half dead annuals. They are only going to get worse! No, they are not about to make a comeback.

2. The perennials whose blooming season is over: see my picture of the rudbeckias. This is up for debate: to cut back or not. My inclination is to cut back: I like my gardens neat and tidy. However, the birds just love all those dead seed heads. I see goldfinches resting on all my sunflowers, Helianthus, Heliopsis, Rudbeckias etc. etc. So no, I leave them be for a few months, messy as it might be.

3. Amend your soil.  This is a must. We totally redid the soil, down to two feet, in two beds last fall. And what a difference it made: even in early March I could see that everyone was happy and would only be happier as the season went on. Now, you do NOT have to replace all the soil. But add some nice compost to it: work it in late in the fall. Your plants will thank you next spring.

4. Plant perennials and shrubs.  This is THE season to do your planting. The roots are able to become established before the spring burst of energy, and the plants will just plain do better. If your garden center doesn’t have what you want, then mail order.

5. Divide Perennials. Yes, the time has come. Dig up the entire plant and all roots. You can be quite rough with this…the plant will not mind. Pull it apart, or yes, cut it. I have a nice sharp 10″ knife I use just for this. I’m talking about your iris tubers also..they really DO need to be dug up and divided every 3-4 years. I usually give away about half of what I dig up: it’s a wonderful way to keep these plants going.

6. Keep on watering!  We think of the fall as being rainy. Well, it’s not always that way. It can be very dry. And, as the leaf cover disappears, the soil, and those new plants, are very exposed. So be sure to check on them, especially with new plants.

7. Check your garden tools, hoses and watering systems. If you’ve been putting off buying any of these, do it now. In the busy spring you will be glad you did!

8. Bulbs.  This is the best for last. I have been pouring over bulb catalogues. I’ve been cutting out pictures and names from my garden design magazines. I put them in a notebook of ideas, then look online for the new names and order right then and there. If you put off ordering (it’s called procrastination…)  you will most likely forget the impact that certain color or species had on you and move on. Do it NOW!

This is part of my Spring 2019 bulb planting scheme:

Ready for Pinterest!


What do you think? Is this helpful? Take your time and work down the list: no matter what zone you are in, you DO have time to accomplish all these tasks.