Still plenty of gardening to do in the fall

While spring is full of new beginnings, fall signals that gardening is just about finished for the year.

While spring is full of new beginnings, fall signals that gardening is just about finished for the year.

For those that are tired of gardening do the basics and rest until next year. Enthusiastic gardeners will take advantage of cool weather and clear out sales as fall is a great time to garden.

The cooler temperatures make it an ideal time to transplant. Perennials can be dug up, split and transplanted in the fall. With the exception of the spring bulbs, it is possible to tell where plants are located making it easier to space plants properly.

Perennials should be divided when they are too large for the location or have died out in the centre. When plants are too large, part of the plant can be removed with a shovel.

The hole that is left is then filled in with top soil to ensure that the plant roots are not exposed to the drying forces of the sun or wind.

It is also possible to dig up the complete plant and cut it into smaller portions.

Before replanting amend the soil with humus or compost. When replanting: dig a hole twice as large as the root ball, fill it with water and let it recede.

Next, place the roots in the hole and back fill with soil pressing down firmly on the soil around the plant. Water one more time to remove any large air pockets that might dry out the roots and kill the plant.

Plants that have died in the centre need to be dug up. The dead areas are then cut away and placed on the compose pile. Living portions can be replanted.

Perennials that are purchased at this time of year are most likely to be root bound; the pot will be a mass of roots. If the roots are left intact they will continue to grow together and not outward into the surrounding soil. This is a problem as it limits the plants ability to take in the moisture and nutrients it needs to survive and thrive.

If possible pull the roots apart and spread them outwards in the hole before planting.

Another method is to use a sharp knife and cut the roots, from side to side in a figure X. Once this is completed they can then be spread into the hole and planted.

Take the usual precautions when purchasing plants. Central Alberta is usually classified as a Zone 3.

Many perennials marked as Zone 4 will thrive with a good snow cover. Perennials with a higher zone rating will need special care in the fall to ensure they survive the cold temperatures.

Purchase healthy plants with good top growth. If the plants have a number of dead leaves attached chances are that they were allowed to dry out and wilt at least once.

It is also a great time to transplant evergreens. Cooler days and a less intense sun slows down transpiration making it easier on the plants. It is best to have the new holes dug for the plants before removing them from the soil or pot.

This lessens the time that the roots are exposed to the sunlight. Plant evergreens using the same method as perennials.

All plants that are transplanted in the fall should be watered regularly until the ground freezes.

It ensures that the plants have enough nutrients to put down new roots and prepare for winter.

In the case of evergreens extra moisture will ensure that the needles stay hydrated and green during the winter months.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist and educator that lives near Rocky and can be reached at

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