Fall Landscape Ideas

fall landscape ideasFall has arrived and you’re probably ready to put your gardening tools away for the winter and start planning for the upcoming holidays. But before you do, it's worth pondering a few fall landscape ideas. Taking the time to clean up, renovate or plant new things in the garden can bring a harvest of good food, future flowers, and colorful foliage next year.

Plant cool season crops in fall

Cool season vegetables should have been in the ground several weeks ago. But there is still time for planting lettuces and kale, which do not need the same warm weather lead time. These crops still have time to mature before the hard frost date. Your County Extension Service can verify your plant hardiness zone and frost date and recommend plants to go into the ground now.

Lettuces and kale -- members of the Brassica family -- are semi-hardy and actually thrive in cooler weather. Benefits of planting vegetables in the fall include fewer insect pests coupled with more reliable rainfall. Using a "season extender" like garden fabric (row cover) can keep greens growing for harvest throughout the winter months.

Divide and prosper

Many gardeners do not realize that many perennials eventually need to be "divided" to alleviate overcrowding and maintain vigor. This involves digging out and subdividing plant clumps into smaller pieces.

Other reasons to divide perennials include removing dead or woody material or relocating a plant to a more desirable location. Herbs like mint, oregano, thyme and chives are easily divided and tolerate it well. This should be undertaken early enough in the fall for new root growth. You should plan to do this at least six weeks before the first frost. Trim top growth to three inches or so before transplanting.

Update container gardens

While the weather is still warm enough, take the opportunity to clean and update or replant outdoor garden containers for fall and winter. Replace the annuals of summer with small trees or perennials with interesting foliage. Don't forget that winter vegetables and herbs can provide interesting texture and color. Plants like Tricolor Sage (Salvia officinalis “Tricolor”) and Purple Kale (Brassica Oleracea “Redbor”) come to mind. For the holidays, insert small individual pots of mums or tiny evergreen trees into large container gardens.

Lift tender bulbs

Amaryllis, caladium, dahlias, and elephant ears are tropical plant varieties and are considered annuals in most parts of the U.S. Corms and bulbs that are not hardy in your zone need to be lifted and stored when temperatures consistently drop below 60 degrees F. Carefully dig them up; let the leaves dry naturally in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks, and then trim.

To store, dust bulbs with a fungicide and store in a ventilated container in sphagnum moss or vermiculite. Storage temperatures must remain above 50 degrees F, so an unheated garage or shed are no-nos.

Check the bulbs occasionally and throw away those that shrivel or become soft. Survivors will be ready to plant in the spring. Lazier gardeners may wish to just discard and plant new specimens next year or bring potted bulbs and corms indoors.

Remove debris

This past summer's hot, wet stormy weather has left many gardens the worse for wear. Wind and rain can transmit bacteria from plant to plant. By now, some plants have succumbed to leaf spot, fruit rot, and other plant infections.

Doing a good fall yard clean up serves more than just an aesthetic purpose. Piles of dead leaves, rotten fruit, twigs, and weeds can harbor plant pathogens that can survive from season to season.

Some strategies for keeping plant diseases from spending the winter in your yard include:

  • Clean up the soil under trees and shrubs and then apply a thick layer of mulch.
  • Prune and stake plants regularly to improve air circulation.
  • Dispose of diseased plant material with regular household waste. Compost bins rarely reach a temperature high enough to kill persistent plant pathogens.
  • Buy disease-resistant varieties of plants. Inspect garden center transplants before purchase and make sure that they are healthy.
  • Disinfect tools, pots, trays and isolate and clean garden shoes. Dish soap and vinegar or diluted bleach (1 part bleach, 9 parts water) soak solutions are effective.

Taking a little time for some outdoor "housekeeping" before the cold settles in will pay dividends now and into the next growing season. In fact, the Inside Out Services Exterior Maintenance team performs many of these very same tasks for commercial landscape installations across the DC, Maryland and Virginia area. If you'd like our team to take care of your year round exterior landscape maintenance needs please use the quote request form on our Exterior Landscape Maintenance service page to obtain a free, no-obligation quote today!

Back to Blog List