Food & Garden: Getting your garden ready for fall

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By Andrew Padula, Contributing Columnist and owner of Greer-based Padula's Plants:

Here are some seasonal tips to help get your gardens ready for fall.

• Try to avoid trimming any trees and shrubs after late August. New plant growth that begins on your trees and shrubs after August will not have enough time to harden off before the freeze of winter arrives. This will result in death of the new growth and will also result in plenty of wasted energy — energy that the plant was storing for winter survival and early spring growth.

• Applying a good amount of organic matter into your garden from August thru October here in the Upstate will give it plenty of time to break down before spring arrives. This will then give your plants additional nutrients for strong bursts of spring growth and color.

• Be on the lookout for plant seeds to collect. Many perennial plant seeds mature between August and October. Collecting garden seeds is a good way to keep the number of plants in your garden in check, helping to avoid heavy weeding in spring by decreasing the amount of seeds that fall and germinate. If you are collecting seeds for propagation, this is an easy and affordable way to create new gardens and possibly a new variety of garden perennial.

• August is a great time to start cool weather herbs/vegetables. Most cool weather herb/vegetable plants will begin to produce a crop after 50 to 80 days of growth. If August heat is an issue (which it sometimes is here in the Upstate), starting plants in part sun to light shade will help them until cooler weather arrives in September.

• Take a picture of your garden or use plant labels to help with locating plants during the winter and early spring. This comes in handy if you have any garden projects going on during these colder months or are just adding some new garden perennials.

• Middle to late fall is a good time to add a fresh layer of mulch to your entire garden area. It is also a  great time to add an extra layer around perennials which are borderline hardy for the area. Here in the Upstate, most areas are in Zone 7a/7b. This means perennials which are hardy to Zone 8 would be considered borderline hardy for the area. These Zone 8 perennials are best planted in sheltered areas away from winter winds or by walls which receive plenty of sun during Winter.

• Take time to think about and write down what plants did well in your garden with little care this season. This will help you with future garden design plans around your home. This will also help ensure that the gardens you fill with these selected perennials will be on their way to becoming easy-care gardens.

• Fall is usually the time that most perennial plants begin to slow their growth rate while they prepare for their winter sleep. Because of this, adding any type of chemical fertilizer is usually not needed. If you do decide to add fertilizer, make sure it is a slow release type.

Learn more about Andrew Padula and Padula's Plants here or find them on Facebook here.

(Image attribution.)