Garden Help

Fall Gardening Checklist

Fall Gardening Checklist

Fall is a great time of year to be out enjoying the cooler, refreshing weather, lovely fall colours…. and for preparing your garden for the onset of Canadian winter!

 Fall is also a great time to plant trees and shrubs, trim back perennials and plant bulbs for loads of colour next spring.

Here are a few tasks to do in the garden in the fall….

September and October:

  • Collect seeds and herbs for drying
  • add compost or manure to garden beds
  • plant new trees and shrubs (give them 6 weeks before the ground freezes)
  • plant spring flowering bulbs
  • continue watering trees and shrubs until the ground freezes (trees and shrubs that are deprived of water now will be easily stressed over winter)
  • pull weeds before they go to seed and to cut down on numbers next spring
  • rack and compost fallen leaves
  • remove dead annuals from garden beds after frost
  • clean up garden debris, remove all vegetable plants and fallen fruit
  • dig up tender bulbs such as dahlia and cannas – store in moist material in a cool, dark space

November, early December:

  • wrap screening around fruit tree trunks to protect from small rodents
  • cut back perennial foliage to discourage over-wintering pests and disease – but leave any flowers with seeds for the birds
  • mulch rose bushes
  • start paper whites and amaryllis for winter blooms
  • clean and sharpen garden tools and mower blades so they are ready to go in spring!
  • Kristin Ego
Still Time to Apply Dormant Oil – but not much!

Still Time to Apply Dormant Oil – but not much!

This is a critical time of the year to get a head start on controlling some keys pests in the garden.  Dormant oil helps to control aphids, scale, spider mites, and many other insects by desiccating or smothering eggs and larvae.

These sprays are applied usually between November to late March or early April …If your trees or shrubs have not yet leafed out then there is still time. Do not apply if the tree or shrub has leaves.

 Most trees and shrubs will benefit from dormant spray. Fruit trees, raspberries, junipers, roses, and many flowering shrubs probably benefit the most. The main insects that dormant spray helps to manage are; aphids, blister mites, bud mites, scale, pear psylla, peach twig borers, lygus bugs, and many other insect’s eggs. Honeylocust mite, European red mite, and spruce spider mite are controlled with dormant oil sprays, because they overwinter as exposed eggs on plants. Dormant oil sprays do not kill two-spotted spider mite, as they overwinter on the ground in leaf debris.

Spray the upper branches, twigs and trunks of trees with dormant spray. Try not to not to spray the lower trunks with dormant spray because many beneficial insects lay their eggs in the lower parts of the tree.

Apply only when trees are dormant, usually November through April, after all the leaves have fallen. Mix with water as directed and spray to all surfaces of the trunk, branches and twigs. Apply when the temperature is expected to rise during the day. Spray the branches thoroughly; to the point of dripping. You may need 4 or 5 gallons of dormant spray to completely cover a large tree. Spray junipers, and other shrubs, thoroughly from top to bottom, to prevent many insects, such as scale or spider- mites.

  • Kristin Ego
Seeds are a great way to get started!

Seeds are a great way to get started!

Seeds are a great way to get started!

So as we get excited about Spring finally arriving – buying and planting seeds is a good ‘spring’ activity that you can do when it is still cold out.

A few considerations...  the frost free date is the ‘official’ date when the risk of a killing frost is less than 50%…  for Ontario we use some old data from the 80’s that might not take into effect the recent climate change issues – but here is a chart that will get you close to the time it is safe to plant out tender flowers and vegetables.Cuc seedlimgs in peat pots 1

Barrie  May 26
Hamilton  Apr. 29
Kapuskasing  Jun. 12
Kingston  May 2
Kitchener  May 11
London  May 9
Ottawa  May 6
Owen Sound  May 12
Peterborough  May 18
Sudbury  May 17
Thunder Bay  Jun. 1
Timmins  Jun. 8
Toronto  May 9
Windsor  Apr. 25


But we can play with seeds ahead of the frost free dates – both indoors and out in the garden.

Veg and Flower gardens have 2 types of seedling processes – one is for seeds you need to start indoors ahead of putting plants into the garden while the other activity is with seeds you plant directly outdoors into your garden beds.

Plants we start in our greenhouses are the same types of plants you could grow yourself indoors on your windowsill or start under artificial light. Typically we start indoors ahead of the season tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and squashes  – all plants that need warm soil and take a long time to fruit. The annual flowers we start ‘indoors’ include begonias, marigolds, alyssum, petunias and other slow to grow flowers.

A few things to know about starting seeds indoors:

1) Clean is key – you need to use ‘sterile’ seedling mix as bacteria and slimy stuff likes warm, humid environment.  Do not use garden soil – a ‘soil-less’ or seed-starting mix is best.

2) Light is important – you need a bright windowsill, or strong artificial light from grow lamps to keep young tomato plants from getting too stretchy.

3) High moisture when seeds are germinating and seedling are very small is key, Use a clear plastic greenhouse covers or you can use clear saran wrap – also good to know that after seedlings are an inch or so high to ease back on high humidity to toughen up the small plants to get used to drier air of garden.

4) Do not start seedlings too soon!  We all get so excited about spring coming that we plant seeds in dark of winter.  Look at your outdoor planting date – then back up from that date time for seeds to germinate then about 3-4 weeks of growing time for peppers/eggplant/tomato – only 2-3 weeks growing time for cucumbers (they grow really fast).

5) Read the packet – all seeds are a little different – some like to be covered – some like light to germinate. Spend a few minutes reading each seed packet and you will have greater success.

6) Start with easy plants – if you have not done this before consider trying some of the easier plants first to get experience and see if seed staring is for you. Good beginner seed items include any cucumber or squash, peppers, marigolds, sunflowers and zinnias. Tomatoes are a little harder but worth a go if you are keen – and small seeded and slow growing plants like begonias and petunias are perhaps for more experienced gardeners.

But if you start clean, have enough light and moisture and leave just the right amount of time – chances are you will have great success with indoor sowing.

On to outdoor sowing.  The vast majority of veggie crops can be sown directly into the garden. Radish, peas, lettuce, cabbage, beans are the most common.  Add into that mix sweet corn, cucumbers & zucchini (for those who chose not to try these two fast growing plants indoors), carrots, beets – – it is a long list.

In early to mid April – you can plant peas, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and onions.  Warm loving crops like peppers and tomatoes need to wait a few more weeks

  • Kristin Ego


Working on your “Summer’scape”

If you survey most homeowners they will share that the best time to plant any plant is ‘spring’.  And if you dig further in survey form you will get a lot of reasons why not to plant anything in summer.

Well – there are a few items that are better in ‘spring’ – such as a few bare-root shrubs or bulbs.  But we would like to share that most plants work just fine with ‘summer’ planting.  One really good indicator of the wisdom of summertime garden projects is to look at the professional landscapers – who spend all summer installing both residential and commercial landscape projects.

If the pro’s do it – we can too!

So   – the idea of Summer’scape – doing some garden and landscape projects all summer….

A few things that are different about summer plantings.  The most important is that we are working with living plant material that is actively growing – so we do need to be aware of the soil / root zone and take a few extra steps.

First up is plant size – or maybe worded differently pot/root ball size.  Most of our summer plantings we tend to favour plant material that is in larger pots or containers.  A good example of this might be a bedding plant annual  – in spring we typically plant annuals in cell packs or small pots – while in summer we like to use plants grown in larger pots – say a 6” (15cm) pot versus a smaller cell pack. We like the larger root ball for a bunch of reasons. The practical reason is that in the heat of summer – a larger root mass will dry out less quickly – it is planted deeper in the soil and due to it’s bigger size and the added protection of a deeper hole there is generally better root penetration down and the plant can take off and grow more easily.  Another reason is more ornamental in nature – but summer planted plants are typically bigger as we have less of the season to enjoy them – and the plants have less time to grow.  In summer bigger is always better!

Second big difference is in water management.  A spring planted flower or woody plant has the benefit of cooler temperatures as well as benefiting form our typically rainy spring weather.  Planting in the heat of summer means that we do have to water more carefully to help our new summer planted landscape get established.  We need to make sure we are adding the right soil amendments to hold some moisture (peat and compost) as well daily or as needed watering.  We often talk about watering deeply – and in the case of summer plantings that means making sure that bigger soil ball we planted gets water all the way to the bottom of our root zone. Worded differently – give your newly planted summer plants a good solid soaking with that hose.

A few tricks to get the roots zone of a Summer’scape going.  Traditionally we like to use a high phosphorous ‘transplant’ fertilizer – high middle number. Since our plant is already bigger than a spring planted flower or shrub we can back off the first number (N) and focus on roots. Anything that can boost roots in a summer planting is a good idea.  Finally we always like adding a layer of mulch – 7-8cm of mulch around summer planted plants will help keep the soil cool and help keep the water in the root zone – hugely important if the weather turns nasty hot right after planting.

So take a tip from the pro’s and look at Summer’scape projects all summer long.

  • Kristin Ego