OCT. 02, 2021
Autumn is well underway here in Maryland, and there’s a special sweetness to this post-COVID pandemic fall. Kids are back in school or back in their college dorms. We’re settling into our work routines, modified though they may be post-pandemic. When we return home, to our familiar haven, our house or apartment and garden, we’re enjoying the benefits of all the little projects we accomplished during quarantine—those new, small appliances for the kitchen, that repainted den or office, and the dear garden—polished or even expanded from past seasons. Feels good, doesn’t it, to look over your accomplishments?
Now, however, fall is upon us, and our long summer on-the-go has ended. Time to plump up those couch pillows, have the windows cleaned, and tidy up the garden for the last lovely months of the year. Here are some suggestions for perking up our tired gardens and patios, preparing them for fall parties and quiet sunset drinks or dinners on the deck.
Start with the obvious. If you have a gardening service, ask them to remove the dead and dying annuals from the flowerbeds and pots. Remind them not to pull out the zinnias and chrysanthemums; they’re in their glory now. Dead-heading any old blooms could help these plants continue to bloom during the next month-or-so. (If you’re doing these tasks yourself, no worries. They’re all easy tasks; take a large basket or plastic pail into the garden and just pluck out dead blossoms and brown, withered plants.
While they or you are clearing out the tired plants, trim back some of those spring-blooming bushes that have grown a bit leggy over the long, summer, growing season. Once trimmed back, your forsythias, flowering quince, and lilac bushes will still have time to grow and prepare to send out new growth and welcome blooms once spring arrives.
Another great way to freshen the garden area is with some strategically placed new plants. In the garden or on the patio, plant some pretty pansies and ornamental kale—with any luck, they’ll bloom all winter. Snapdragons and ornamental peppers will also brighten up the garden. You needn’t bother putting them in the ground. Just snuggle the plastic pots down among the foliage of other plants or drop the plants into always-appropriate clay pots. Fill several pots with nasturtium, perfect with their orange and gold blossoms and pretty, round leaves. To add a touch of drama, dig out some trailers of ivy or periwinkle with a little root ball and plant them around the outer edge of the flowerpots so they cascade over the sides.
Take a look at the borders of your flowerbeds and walkways. Has grass started to wheedle its way between the stepping-stones or into the flowerbeds? Pulling out the stray clumps of grass and weeds will add a crisper look to the walkway. You may want to go a bit further with the flowerbeds and ask the gardener to edge the flowerbeds again, as was done in the spring. Expand
And while you’re wandering along the garden paths, take a look at your fencing. Are there slats that need replacing? Would a coat of paint now help preserve the fence and improve its appearance? Is now the time to replace that chain link fence at the back of the yard with something more attractive, like pickets, bamboo, or wrought iron?
In preparation for the coming shorter days and longer nights, a little trick with lighting might be fun. Maybe you have some leftover rope lights from your summer parties. Or, pick up some tiny, white lights from the hardware store. Drape some over the bushes, wind one or two strands around tree trunks, or hang them around the patio. If they’re LED, you can just leave them on throughout the winter, or connect them to one main, heavy-duty extension cord which you can easily unplug as you walk out to get the paper in the morning and plug in as you return home in the evening.
When you get the urge to do some digging, buy some bulbs—you’ll find them everywhere this time of year. Maybe you want to try some exotic tulips or old-fashioned gladiolas. Get some of each, plus the old standbys, daffodils and crocuses. For the most part, just stick them in the ground anywhere the soil is not too packed down, or be creative, and plant them in clumps for lovely bursts of blooms in springtime.
Finally, think about the watering system you’ve used all summer. If you simply used a watering can and hose, think about preparing to coil and store that hose. If you setup timers and sprinklers, you’ll want to plan for removing them and storing them for spring re-installation. Or, this might be the year you call in the landscaper to discuss installing an irrigation system in the garden, a system that will use water efficiently. Now is a good time to look into the project. The advice may be to wait until spring to dig up the ground and install the drip hoses or sprinkler system. But, they may suggest installing now, while they can see the design of your garden and the water demands of various plants and trees. In any case, it’s a good time to get the project on-the-books.
There will be lots of time yet for putting the garden to bed, and facing the chores of preparing for winter. But, not yet. There’s still time to sit on the deck or lounge in the hammock and enjoy your outdoor spaces. Doing a few little chores to spruce up those spaces will simply enhance your pleasure in autumn’s particular beauty.