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Fall: Time For Garden Groundwork

Garden maintenance in the fall is really a matter of laying the groundwork for winter and beyond, says The Early Show gardening expert Charlie Dimmock.

"This time of year for me, I love it, because you chop everything down, tidy up and get the place looking shipshape and smart," Dimmock tells co-anchor Rene Syler.

"Many plants have finished flowering, so you cut them right back down," Dimmock points out. "But it's also really good time of the year to split them if they've gotten too big. Hack it right down!"

"It's a great time to divide them. What you need to do is lift the plant out." Then pry them apart, and replant them. If it's a big clump, you keep only keep the young plant, chucking the rest away.

Of course, there's much more to be done than that. She offers these bountiful tips:

  • Autumn's a time to plant spring bulbs, and especially in the lawn. For instance, crocus: Peel back a piece of turf. Arrange the crocus in the ground, the right way up. Then pop the turf back down.
  • Tall shrub roses have almost finished flowering, and it's time to trim them down. Otherwise they get really bashed about in the winter. Take off the really tall extension growth, and always trim to a bud, which is just above a leaf axle. Take out any diseased wood or dead wood. Also, check the rose leaves for black spots, and remove any leaves with them.
  • Prune mature roses reasonably hard. Leave the tiny little delicate roses alone until spring, because if you cut them back hard now, and we have a bad winter, you might lose them. You may just want to dead head - take any dead material out.
  • "Climbers" like climbing roses need all the long growth tied in. Tie them into a wire, then secure them with a tie. Or, if you don't want them to spread any further, just remove the growths.
  • Plants that have been trained into a specific shape, like pyracantha, need to have all their extension growths removed, so you maintain the original shape.
  • Spectacular dahlias keep flowering until the first hard frost, but the plants aren't hardy. So what you need to do is cut them down, then dig up the tubers, and store them in a frost-free place like a shed in some damp peat.
  • Architectural evergreen plants look fabulous over the winter, such as yucca and phormiums. You could take off the seed heads on phormiums, but leave them on because they look so good. What you want to do is check for dead foliage and remove that.
  • Herbaceous plants - plants that die down in the winter and come back up in the spring - have finished flowering now. One such plant is astilbe. So you need to cut them back down to ground level, which will make them nice and tidy, and then they'll reshoot in the spring with fresh young growth.
  • Autumn's also the last chance to trim up your hedges so they look nice and neat for the wintertime.
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