The people's voice of reason

Fall Clean Up

I can remember as a little girl with 2 other sisters growing up in Dothan, that it was always the fall and spring of the year we scurried around doing "fall cleaning". Windows, porches, closets, rugs, baseboards, in and out and up and down the house got the steely eye of all involved. White gloves were worn to touch surfaces to insure that no crack or cranny was left untouched. Those were the days when everyone pitched in and got it done. Unfortunately, I am not as meticulous in the house as I should be, but I also do not have the team Mother was able to muster. However, we are approaching a fall cleanup for our gardens. So much to do, and only a couple of months to get it done.


I know from my own experience that Wandering Jew, and other weeds have raised their ugly heads, and need removal. Hoeing can help, but pulling these long runners is probably the best way if the weed in amongst plants we are not removing at this time. Round Up answers the call if there are large spaces which can safely be sprayed. For instance, I have tall Pacific Giant Zinnias in full bloom. So before I spray, the sun must be out, no wind, the sprinkler system has already run, I get black lawn bags which I split on the sides to loosely wrap the bunches of zinnias secured with masking tape. Now nothing will get killed except the weeds. Leaves can be a boon to the gardener. Rake or blow the leaves onto a tarp, pile them in an out of sight area, and within a couple of month there magically transforms into rich organic soil. I also learned at a tree symposium in Savannah that the best fertilizer for tree it its own leaves. Which translates, rake the leaves or blow them under the tree. Now your yard and lawn would not have dozens of piles of leaves waiting to be shoveled into lawn bags to be placed on the street awaiting the City pick up. I believe the term for this is "green or eco use. So no more back breaking hauling and no more burning.


Shrubs and small garden trees, ferns and other leafy plants, can add interest, drama, and even color to your garden. Even in formal beds where all flowers are removed and replanted at the same time, Japanese boxwoods or other low growing hedges, which surround the geometric beds, give interest. These box hedges, along with other non organic edgings, are called parterres. Buying and planting the plants which give interest through their foliage should be done in fall and winter. At this time of the year the plants have the best chance of thriving because, generally, we have more moisture, lower temperatures, and less pests.

Plants which have gray/green leaves are often used in color schemes of all white flowers. In beds which have a variety of color, they act as a contrast or foil, many times pulling the bed together and making the garden more pleasing to the eye. The gray/green color of the leaves indicates the plant over the course of eons has been exposed to drought, wind, salt, sun or a sharply drained soil. There are exceptions to everything even for plants. Hostas require shade and moisture; Pulmonaria prefers shade; and Anaphalis can not tolerate drought. Artemesias, both the mounding and free form, are good additions for foliage in the beds. These are drought tolerant and are perennials. Mahonia japonica with its gray green pinnate leaves bloom lax racemes in winter which give rise to clusters of blue berries. Great foliage arrangements of Mahonia can include the leaves and the berries to an exotic affect. Other perennials, such as Achilleas have gray/green leaves, and are on their way to being drought resistant and heat tolerant. Lambs' Ears follow suit in thriving in low moisture and can tolerate both sun and shade. Other colorful shrubs include Acuba, Nandina, variegated hydrangeas, Chinese ferns, and variegated Pittosporum.



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