Prep Now for a Beautiful Spring Garden

Spring gardens are made in the fall—make sure and tackle these chores before the first frost is officially here.

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Why is it when high temperatures don’t hover in the 90s for several days, we think of fall, apple cider and pumpkins? (BTW, we do the same thing in the spring when the temps finally climb to going outside without a jacket.) Autumn will be here before we know it and winter is close behind.

Winter is coming! Well, at least frost.

In case you didn’t know, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has divided the country into growing hardiness zones; most of Kansas is in Zones 6A and 6B. Zones are based on average annual minimum winter temperatures, divided into 10-degree Fahrenheit areas. Below is the map for Kansas.
map of regions

Map courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture
Based on our zones, listed below are activities to do before the first frost. From Wichita north to Kansas City, the average those dates are October 26-28. The possibility of frost hitting before these dates is 50 percent.

Let’s do some gardening.

Mow

Tend to your grass as you have been doing. If you set your mower blades to 2-3” high, it will encourage taller grass to crowd out weeds. Fertilize with a weed-and-feed combination, one especially for fall application.

Water

Continue watering, especially if we don’t get a lot of rain. Plants need to go into the colder weather plenty moisturized.

Clean

Take time to clean out dead and diseased plants in garden beds and larger garden areas. Not only will this allow plants that have harmful diseases to be removed from your gardens, but it will also give you an idea of the space you have available. If the vines and leaves are diseased, do not add them to your compost pile. Put them in a plastic bag and add to your weekly trash.

Prune

Spring-flowering shrubs already have their buds set, so you will sacrifice blooms in the spring if you prune them back. You should have already pruned back any roses.

Wait to prune shrubs such as crape myrtle, potentilla and butterfly bush until winter and the plants are dormant. The same goes for most trees.

Trim back leaves on bulb flowers such as daylilies, irises, daffodils, hostas and tulips. Use hand shears and cut as close as possible where the stalk meets the leaves. Divide and transplant as necessary.

Deadhead

The action isn’t as scary as the term itself. (And it definitely doesn’t have anything to do with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead.) The right time to do this is when plants turn brown, start to fade or look ugly.

The following plants will bloom longer if deadheaded:

  • hardy geraniums
  • coreopsis
  • petunias
  • marigolds
  • snapdragons
  • begonias
  • roses
  • zinnias
  • blanket flowers
  • salvia
  • delhinium
  • yarrow

Throw old blooms in your composter or put them in a cool, dark place to dry out the seeds in order to use next spring.

You don’t have to deadhead these:

  • most groundcovers
  • most flowering vines
  • sedum
  • impatiens
  • grasses
  • crocuses

Seed

Re-seed bare spots in the yard. Adding starter fertilizer will help get the new seed established. Water lightly, but frequently until the seed has sprouted. Apply a fall fertilizer a few weeks later to prepare your yard for the winter.

Plant

Fall is a great time to plant trees, shrubs, bushes, perennials and bulbs. Be sure to add starter fertilizer to help the roots grow deep. While our temperatures might be higher some days, it’s best to plant on a day that’s overcast and cool.

Transplant

The best time to divide and transplant bulbs is October, but make a note to do it before the first frost. It’s best to use a garden fork, but you can use a shovel as well. Just be careful not to cut into the bulbs. Loosen all around the bulbs. Lift the bulbs and shake off the dirt. Pull the bulbs apart from one another, trying to keep the small bulbs attached to the larger ones. Cut back the leaves to a couple inches and replant in designated areas. Water well for several days.

These activities can take several weeks to finish, but the work will be worth it in the spring when blooms pop out from the cold ground.

About the Author

AuthorImage

Debbie Kubik Evert juggles several part-time jobs (writing, research, dog sitting) and often spends her free time gardening, coloring and creating personalized products for friends and family. She was born and raised in Wichita, graduating from Southeast High School. She continued her education and graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism. Debbie shares her home with labradorable Cocoa.

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