Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.


¬†Here in Iowa we had a terribly hot, dry summer. Autumn wasn’t much better; it was still very dry. If your area is like ours, one of the most important things you can do for your fall garden is to water your plants in well, especially those evergreens. Keeping evergreens well-hydrated going into winter is one of the best things you can do to prevent them from browning.

Another perfect thing to do is wrap the trunk of young trees in tree wrap. This protects them from critters — such as rabbits — that may gnaw the tender bark.

Now is the perfect time to combat clay soil, too. In my last garden, which had the worst clay soil I’ve ever seen, I would cover my garden beds in an inch of compost every spring and every autumn. I started to see improvement after just a couple of years. If your lawn is struggling, you can do the same thing to your turf. Compost has the same beneficial effects on the soil, meaning your grass will grow thicker, hold its own better against weeds, and stay greener longer during periods of drought.

Get more ideas on what you can be doing now from our Fall Garden Checklist!

Bergenia, AzaleaLots of gardens start to look a little dull by the time autumn rolls around, but happily, that doesn’t have to be the case with yours.

There are, of course, great fall-flowering perennials such as anemone, aster, and goldenrod. And then there are the trees and shrubs that offer such fantastic fall color, such as maples, birches, and ginkgo.

But there’s another group of plants, too — perennials that have great fall foliage. One of my all-time favorites is bloody geranium, so-called because of the brilliant shade of red its leaves turn each autumn. Many other perennial geraniums also offer fine fall color.

There are also peonies, many of which turn a delightful shade of gold as the days grow short, and hostas, and many grasses (including the stunning ‘Shenandoah’ switchgrass).

And this year I’ve noticed my bowman’s root (Gillenia trifoliata) is also putting on quite a show with its dark green leaves turning a rich shade of amber.

Shown here is another good one — bergenia (also called pigsqueak), which combines brilliantly with an azalea and ‘Queen Charlotte’ pink anemone.

Aster 'Alma Potschke'Autumn doesn’t have to mean the end of your garden. Pick the right plants, such as ‘Alma Potschke’ aster (shown here), and you can keep the floral display going until the snow flies. Happily, you’re not just limited to mums and asters; many roses continue going until they’re nipped back by hard frost. I also have ‘Rozanne’ geranium blooming up a storm at home, along with ‘Summer Snowflake’ viburnum, Profusion zinnias, Wave petunias, Supercal calibrachoas, and more.

Plus there are plants with colorful fall leaves and berries, too!

Dogwoods are nature’s underdogs. So are the many other understory trees native to our woodlands, including serviceberry, wild plum, redbud, hawthorn, wahoo, and sassafras. The sheer size of cottonwood, sycamore, hickory, oak, and maple helps the towering giants win The Most Colorful contest in October. But shorter species offer big blessings, too. In the wild, their individual beauty often is disguised by the hovering limbs of tall neighbors, like schoolyard bullies showing little respect for personal space. By now, though, the big boys have reached their peak and bared their branches, allowing the small-fries of the forest and fencerows to show what they’re made of. They win me over, not just for the cute factor, but for their value in home landscaping. After all, smaller trees are a better fit for most backyards. Plus, many of these space-saving natives offer sweet spring blossoms, glorious fall foliage, and colorful fruits that wildlife can’t resist. The underdogs, in this case, have the last “bark.”

Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)

Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)

Serviceberry (Amelanchier)

Serviceberry (Amelanchier)

Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

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