2 Mulch! - The best time-saving measure a gardener can take is applying mulch. This goes for vegetable gardens and flower beds. Mulched gardens are healthier, have fewer weeds, and are more drought-resistant.
There are two basic kinds of mulch: organic and inorganic. Organic mulches include formerly living material such as chopped leaves, straw, grass clippings, compost, wood chips, shredded bark, sawdust, pine needles, and even paper. Inorganic mulches include gravel, stones, black plastic, and geotextiles such as landscape fabrics. Both types discourage weeds, but organic mulches also improve the soil as they decompose. Inorganic mulches don't break down and enrich the soil, but under certain circumstances they're the mulch of choice. For example, black plastic warms the soil and radiates heat during the night, keeping heat-loving vegetables such as tomatoes cozy and vigorous.
There are two cardinal rules for using organic mulches to combat weeds. First, be sure to lay the mulch down on soil that is already weeded, and second, lay down a thick enough layer to discourage new weeds from coming up through it. It can take a 4- to 6-inch layer of mulch to completely discourage weeds, although a 2- to 3-inch layer is usually enough in shady spots where weeds aren't as troublesome as they are in full sun. If you know that a garden bed is filled with weed seeds or bits of perennial weed roots, you can use a double-mulching technique to prevent a weed explosion. Set plants in place, water them well, then spread newspaper and top it with organic mulch.
3 Sow cover crops - Cover crops just might be the hardest-working plants you’ll ever grow. Cover crops, also called green manure, suppress weeds, build productive soil, and help control pests and diseases. Plus, cover crops are easy to plant and require only basic care to thrive.
You may already know about the benefits of cover crops but if you think they’re just for farmers, think again. Cover crops are well suited to all gardens, big or small. Just remember that you must kill your cover crops before they set seed and the top growth gets out of control. You read that right, kill them. The best time to kill them is at flowering or when the seed heads emerge on grains. These annuals can be killed by cutting at the base of the plant, I use a lawn mower on my cover crops.
5 Start a compost pile - Or add fresh leaves and grass cuttings to your existing compost bin.
6 Cover up tender ornamentals - Use netting to cover ornamentals such as azaleas and berry bushes.
7 Out with the old - Clear out your old annuals and weeds before they drop seeds or they could take over your spring garden.
8 Cut perennials back and protect them – You can expect your perennials to come back next year but now is the time to cut them back. Otherwise, they may create hiding places for slugs, snails, and other pests. Oh, and if we get a freeze this year be sure to Mulch your perennial crops after the ground freezes as this protects them from frost heaving.
9 Simple clean up goes a long way - Clear up and dispose of leaves around roses, apple trees, and plants susceptible to powdery mildew and other pests and diseases that overwinter on debris. Clear out any diseased foliage to prevent problems next year. Do not toss these plants in the compost, bag them up and toss them out. Break off dead branches from roses and fruit trees, but no pruning yet. Finally, clean and care for your tools. With gardening so popular these days, there aren't many backyards that don't have at least one patch, pot, or container with something growing in it. But most likely, you're paying a lot of attention to your plants and not so much to the tools you use to grow them. Trowels, hoes, spades, and shovels take a lot of abuse during the growing season, and if you take time to love them, they'll work better and last longer.
10 Plant your bulbs - Fall is the perfect time for planting many bulbs that bloom in spring. To many gardeners, the autumnal rite of bulb planting has become an almost rote exercise in precise floral grouping. True, the appeal of well-placed bulbs, brightening April's promise around trees and in borders, is a strong one. Yet there's a different joy in seeing them crop up as if by chance, knowing you sowed such a wonderfully wild array.
Beautiful and dependable bulbs for Central Texas:
- Daffodils Dutch Master, Unsurpassable, Ice Follies.
- Narcissus Ziva.
- Dutch iris.
- Luecojum or Snowbells.
- Tulips – but consider them an annual.
- Grape Hyacinth, which can naturalize.
- Other hyacinths may rebloom for a few years, but the fragrance is worth the shorter life span.
Now, kick back and relax. Your garden is ready for winter and is well on its way to rewarding you in the spring!