Written by Carson Arthur
The snap in the air signifies more than just the arrival of autumn; it also means that it’s officially time to clean out the perennial beds. This can be a challenge even for the most experienced gardener because we always forget the specific treatment for any new species or plants that we’ve added to beds.
For the novice gardener, you have a few options. You can travel around the garden with your smart phone and look up every plant before you deal with it...or...use these general rules when deciding if what’s above the ground should stay or go.
1. Small steps
Make a complete list of everything that you need to do outdoors and break the jobs down by small, medium and large. It may seem redundant to make a list instead of just getting outside and starting, but if you don’t make a list, it’s very easy to get sidetracked on the multitude of little tasks that can derail you. With your list, try to make sure that you mix up the size of jobs so that you get a sense of accomplishment when you’ve actually checked the completed box. Nothing is worse than feeling like you’ve wasted a day and accomplished nothing.
2. Go in order of importance
Grass, trees and weeds all grow... some faster than others. When planning your jobs for the day, gauge the impact of how things will look if you leave them to the end of the list. For example, I always cut the grass first because a freshly mown lawn not only looks great, but also if left too long it can take double the amount of time to complete. Next, I tackle the weeding. It’s my least favourite job in the yard but if left too long, the weeds can outgrow the perennials. I always leave the pruning for last. Most trees and shrubs only grow at the beginning of the year. Unlike grass and weeds, they won’t look worse the longer you wait.
3. What should go and what should stay is crucial to maintaining your garden.
Yellow leaves and mushy stems are a definite sign that a plant is done for the year. When the leaves turn yellow, it means that they are no longer producing food for the plant. Referred to as being ‘chlorotic’, this yellowing of the leaves can happen for various reasons including lack of iron, cold temperatures or even disease. Seeds and dried flowers are up to you if you want to keep them or not. Many plants that spread via seeds can take over a garden bed if left unchecked. However, birds rely on these seeds as a food source throughout the winter.
4. Throw your hands up and bring in the professionals
There is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting that you are in over your head and hiring a yard maintenance company for a couple of days just to get you back on your feet. When it comes to our outdoor spaces, we all have different comfort and skill levels. Paying for an expert is completely acceptable versus trying to muddle through and making some mistakes that will cost you more in the long run.
You are going to make mistakes... we all do. By learning some of these simple basic rules when it comes to fall clean-up, you have a better chance of making less of them and that’s all anyone can really ask. Remember, this is your property and your home. What works for your neighbours may not work for you. Instead of letting the panic of a never-ending backyard full of work consume you, find a system that fits your lifestyle and make the most of your available time and energy.
Carson can be reached at carsonarthur.com
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