Making the best of the remaining warm days

Warm days in fall are made for gardening and doing all those last-minute chores before winter sets in, including transplanting plants, watering in and in general tidying up the yard. Perennials divide and/or transplant well in the fall.

Warm days in fall are made for gardening and doing all those last-minute chores before winter sets in, including transplanting plants, watering in and in general tidying up the yard.

Perennials divide and/or transplant well in the fall.

They are putting their energy into their roots as opposed to the foliage as they move into dormancy and are less likely to experience transplant shock.

When transplanting, dig the new hole larger than the rootball it is about to receive.

Fill the hole with water and let it recede.

Place the roots in the hole and backfill with existing soil. Press the soil firmly down around the plant and water again. Watering the second time reduces the amount of air pockets that could dry out the roots. It also gives the roots additional moisture.

Now is also a good time to transplant trees and shrubs.

The size of rootball dug should be in proportion to the size of the plant. If it is a choice of digging deep or wide, choose wide as most of the feeder roots are in the top foot (30 cm) of the soil. Roots pruning usually occurs when transplanting woody plants, which results in die back.

Pruning up to a quarter of the top growth will help elevate this problem.

Plant trees and shrubs using the same method as perennials.

It helps to make sure all roots in the garden are surrounded by moist soil going into winter.

When this isn’t possible, concentrate on watering the evergreens and newly planted trees and shrubs.

Evergreens transpire, or lose moisture, all year.

If the roots do not contain enough moisture going into the winter months, when they do not have access to a new source of moisture, the needles will become dry and turn brown.

Fall watering is as simple as leaving a hose to trickle for an hour or two each week in the drip line, the area around the outside of the tree away from the main stems.

Some tender plants will survive the winter if given protection. It can be as easy as piling leaves over small plants to placing a cage around larger ones and filling it with organic insulating material.

Prefab covers are available in garden centres and some hardware stores.

Make sure that the covers used are pleasing to the eye as they will be part of the landscape for the next six months.

Cutting back perennials or leaving them is a personal decision.

Stems left intact catch the snow that insulates the garden.

The leaves themselves will cover the roots, adding another layer of insulation.

They also form lumps and shadows under the snow adding interest to the landscape.

Unfortunately, all plants that are left intact will have to be cut off before they begin to grow in the spring.

It can be difficult to find time to do this as the ground is often wet. Rodents can find shelter in the plant tops, giving them a perfect spot to eat the garden.

Be sure to trim tall grass away from trees and shrubs.

The tall grass will feed and provide protection for rodents, which are less likely to visit areas if they are exposed to their predators.

Covering the soil with a thin layer of compost or manure will provide nutrients and organic matter to the soil.

It can be worked in or left in place for the worms to distribute throughout the soil.

Continuing to garden throughout the fall improves the garden and decreases the amount of work to do in the spring.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at

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