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ESSENTIAL FALL GARDENING TIPS FROM WHITE FLOWER FARM
Ready, set, plant! With the fall planting season in full swing, White Flower Farm (www.whiteflowerfarm.com) has some helpful tips to ensure that next year's spring and summer gardens are healthy, as well as beautiful.
** Although fall seems to be the season of ending, spring-blooming bulbs are starting their growth cycle now. Hidden beneath the soil, bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and alliums are putting out new roots to prepare for spring. This makes fall the ideal time to fertilize bulbs. Apply a top-dressing of a slow-release bulb fertilizer now, or after you've cleaned up your garden beds for winter.
** Don't let the town cart your leaves away! Fallen leaves make an ideal soil amendment or mulch, and they're free. Run the lawn mower over the leaves to reduce their size, and once the ground has frozen, apply them to shrub and perennial beds as winter protection. Digging chopped leaves into the soil will also help loosen and aerate it. Or simply pile the leaves inside a ring of wire fencing and allow them to decompose over the winter. Use the resulting compost as a soil amendment in the spring.
More on falling leaves…
** Although professional landscaping companies usually blow every leaf off a property, that's not always necessary, or even the best idea. Allowing some fallen leaves to remain under shrubs or in a woodland garden mimics the natural layer of leaf litter found in the forest. The decaying leaves nourish the plants, act as a sponge to soak up rainwater and release it slowly, and provide winter cover for a variety of native insects that are important in the diet of birds. Lawns don't like a heavy covering of leaves, but shrub borders and hedges are fine with it.
** Autumn is a great time to create new beds or expand old ones. To kill existing vegetation, cut the lawn (or weeds) short, and then cover with layers of newspaper, overlapping the pages to create a solid mat. As few as four sheets in each layer will do the job. Wet the newsprint to keep it in place while you work, and then cover it with a several inches of mulch to hold it down permanently. By spring, the lawn grass will have turned to compost, and the bed will be ready to plant.
** Enjoy a taste of summer in the winter. Harvest all your basil before the frost ruins it. Puree the leaves in a blender with a bit of olive oil. Pour the puree into an ice cube tray, freeze, then place the frozen cubes in a zippered plastic bag in the freezer. Add one or two cubes to a pot of tomato sauce at the end of cooking to savor the bright, spicy scent of summer basil.
** Stop pruning. It may be tempting to give all shrubs a severe haircut during fall cleanup, but it's usually a bad idea. If you cut spring bloomers, such as lilacs, Forsythia, azaleas, and viburnums now, you will remove next spring's flowers. Instead, wait until after bloom to shape these shrubs. Roses tend to go dormant very late, so pruning them now encourages new growth that will be too tender to survive winter. Instead, wait until Forsythia blooms in spring to prune your roses.
*Although the fall planting season is underway, White Flower Farm is already thinking ahead to the holidays. Their colorful online Amaryllis catalog is now available at www.whiteflowerfarm.com. Browse the full list with over 50 varieties of top-quality double, single, and cybister varieties at www.whiteflowerfarm.com/amaryllis.
Barb Pierson, the nursery manager at White Flower Farm, is available for interviews upon request, as are other experts.
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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 www.whiteflowerfarm.com, where you will also find helpful gardening information including a how-to video library. Join our E-mail list for gardening advice and tips, From the Farm monthly newsletter, announcement of events at the White Flower Farm Store, and special offers not in our catalogues or on our Web site. White Flower Farm -- we make your garden grow.