Fall is a good time to take a slow stroll around the garden and make notes about what worked and what didn’t. Once compiled a list will make it easier to make decisions about what needs to be done in the yard and in what order.
When doing the walk look for perennials that are getting smaller, crowded or too large. Plants that shrink in size are not planted in the correct spot. It could be because other plants are taking all the nutrients or that trees and shrubs have grown and the amount of sunlight they receive is diminishing.
Plants that are too large and crowding others can usually be split in the fall or spring. Before digging, decide what to do with the portion of the plant that has been removed. Can it be planted elsewhere? Given away? Sold?
Did the shrubs flower well? Did they get new growth? Are they covering a window or infringing on a pathway? Would they benefit from being pruned? Taking a few of the older branches out and ground level will let light into the interior of the bush and encouraging new growth. Reducing the size and shaping the plant it will help keep it attractive.
Ideally, a shrub should have leaves from the ground to the top without large expanses of stem showing.
If shrubs become too big for their location, even with regular pruning it should be removed.
Walk around the trees, looking at the soil around the tree as well as the tree itself. It was a wet and windy spring which can play havoc on tree anchor roots. If there is a new bump in the ground on one side of the tree chances are that an anchor root broke and the tree will fall over in a heavy wind storm.
Are their dead branches that need removed? Are there signs of disease, insect or bird damage? Is the tree too close to the house or in the way or a sidewalk?
Is the grass growing over or between the sidewalk blocks? Both make removing the snow harder.
Were the planters attractive? Which plants grew well and which ones didn’t? Each year the weather is slightly different so what grew well this year in the rain might not do great in a hot dry year. How often were the planters watered? If more than once a day consider getting a larger container.
Did all the vegetables grow well? Vegetables that did not thrive in a location should be planted elsewhere next year. Good intentions of planting a vegetable garden doesn’t mean that the produce is used. If it wasn’t eaten, plant something different next year.
Were there plants that froze before they flowered or the fruit matured? If so is this a usual occurrence? If the plant rarely matures before the frost comes it might be planted in the wrong location, need more water or nutrients or needs to be planted in an area with a longer summer.
Do not forget to look at the soil. Is it soft to the touch or is it hard and lumpy. Plants have trouble spreading roots in hard lumpy soil. Amending the soil with organic matter will help it become more pliable. Organic matter should be added yearly as it continuously breaks down.
It might take more than one walk to complete the list but once it is finished there won’t be a question of what needs to be completed.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that has gardened in Central Alberta for over 30 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org