October: Damage control in the garden


‘A garden is never so good as it will be next year.’ — Thomas Cooper

T he garden is resilient! Rain falling for days on end, hurricane-force winds tearing at every leaf, bending plants and trees, boggy, soggy areas in your lawn squishing under each step … it was a wild ending to summer. Now that all of this is behind us, it just proves that you cannot keep a good garden down.

Fall is the ideal time to take a walk around your garden and envision what will save you time next spring. What perennials should be moved? What can be planted in those empty spaces? Are low-maintenance perennials the answer or durable groundcovers? Do you envision low-growing ferns or more majestic tall ostrich ferns — most ferns are doing very well in all types of soil. Their fine texture is a great contrast to broadleafed hosta whose preferential location is in the mottled shade.

Sedum Angelina has become a favorite of mine. It’s a 4-inch versatile lime green groundcover, best performing in bright sun and pairing well with taller plants. Would you want to create a feeling of calm by using cool or neutral hues, like soothing gray blues or white flowers, creating a refined look with layers of depth and subtlety? Or are you thinking of fiesta colors, audaciously used in bright sunlit locations, combining hot pinks and burnt orange color with bright reds? Just make sure your garden chroma does not get over-excited in your planned image makeover.

So many choices, so many decisions to make. Plant for color, form, texture, scent and use the coming months to visualize your garden by creating a palette that pleases your eye and nourishes your soul. And when gray autumn and winter months start to dissuade you, remain a steadfast gardener and look ahead to another spring, another season of joy. Gardening is truly about hope and anticipation with endless possibilities.

Even though the weather has cooled, your plants are still growing. Although we have had a good amount of rain, keep watering your plants before they go into winter. Moving time is now; dig up and divide daylilies and hosta. The best root growth happens in the fall when soil begins to cool down.

What to do now:

 Plant spring-flowering bulbs in groups for best effect.

 Plant grass seed now.

 Apply lawn fertilizer according to directions.

 Clean houseplants; let them get used to indoor conditions.

 Plant new trees and shrubs now. They will have a chance to develop new roots before soil temperatures drop. Mulch and water well.

 Lift corms and bulbs of begonia, caladium, gladiola and calla. Let dry and store in a cool place for next year.

 Lift dahlia and canna after blackened by frost.

 Clean up your garden beds. Remove any diseased foliage.

 Leave some plants for winter interest and seed heads for birds.

 Cover garden areas with leaf mulch after the first frost.

Gotti Kelley, a past president of the Navesink Garden Club, also serves on the board of The Garden Club of New Jersey and Central Atlantic Region.