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9/30/2009 12:00

Contact: Margret
(860) 496-9624 x6220

"Do I need to cut back plants?"    "How do I collect seeds for next year?"
"When is the best time to rake?"    "Isn't a compost pile a lot of work?"

After a spring and summer filled with fresh vegetables, beautiful flowers and lush lawns (one of the good things about all that rain), few people look forward to the annual fall cleanup. But White Flower Farm ( says that doing the work now will ensure that next season's garden is even better.

Take advantage of fall's cool, sunny weather to remove spent bedding plants -- roots and all -- and then rake the soil so it is even. If you liked a particular annual, such as a colorful coleus or long-blooming petunia, save the label so you can purchase it again next year. Fall is a good time to scatter ripe seeds of biennials and perennials, such as Foxglove and Echinacea, to encourage new plants in your garden. Keep in mind that hybrid varieties may not come true from seed. It's important to cut back the stems and foliage of most perennials once they have turned brown. Let ornamental grasses and their feathery seed heads remain for winter interest in your garden. Be careful not to prune shrubs or roses late in the season, as this may encourage new growth at a time when plants should begin winter dormancy. It is all right to remove diseased and dead branches and thin errant growth.

"Cutting back your perennials and raking leaves in the fall gives you great starter material for compost," says Barb Pierson, Nursery Manager at White Flower Farm. Why is compost good for gardens? According to Ms. Pierson, composting is a natural process that converts organic matter into a soil-like material that is better than synthetic fertilizers for your plants. "Compost adds micronutrients and organisms that are critical to healthy soil and plant growth," says Ms. Pierson. Compost also improves soil texture and drainage. And, of course, recycling leaves and other plant material keeps them out of local landfills.

Ready to give composting a shot? Remember that composting is a process, and there are many techniques that work. To download our Home Composting Guide in PDF format, click here. Ms. Pierson also provides these helpful hints:

** To start out small, purchase a wire bin or plastic bin holding about one cubic yard. A plastic bin should have a tight-fitting lid to hold in heat and moisture, which are important for decomposition.

** Add chopped leaves, lawn clippings, leafy green kitchen scraps and small twigs in layers about 3-4 inches thick. Cut large material into pieces so it breaks down quicker.

** If the weather is dry, use a hose to wet each layer. The contents of the pile should be moist to the touch to aid decomposition. Dry compost will not break down.

** The more you turn the pile, the faster it will decompose. Microbes need air to do their work. If your bin does not have a tumbler, use a pitchfork to turn the pile.

** Composting starter kits can be purchased that have all the materials you need to begin.

It's best not to add weeds, diseased plant material or meat scraps to your compost pile. Compost is ready when it is crumbly and dark brown in color. It will have an earthy smell and you won't be able to recognize any ingredients that went into the pile. If something has not yet finished breaking down, toss it back into the pile. Be patient, as composting can take several months to almost a year depending on your ingredients and method. "So go ahead -- give it a try," urges Ms. Pierson. "Find a semi-shaded area in your garden and start by piling up leaves this fall."

Barb Pierson, the nursery manager at White Flower Farm, is available for interviews upon request, as are other experts.

Please contact: Deborah Broide,
Deborah Broide Publicity,
(973) 744-2030,

White Flower Farm is a family-owned nursery located in northwest Connecticut. Since 1950, they have been gathering, evaluating, growing, and selling a wide range of annuals, perennials, shrubs, vines, bulbs, and houseplants representing the very best varieties from around the world. Plants shipped are true to name, free of disease, and in prime condition for growing. While in the area, stop by White Flower Farm with its five acres of display gardens, or visit, where you will also find helpful gardening information including how-to videos. White Flower Farm -- we make your garden grow.

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