Fall is the best time for propagation here in Wisconsin. Dividing can be challenging because it is hard to dig into a good looking garden knowing it won’t look so good after a division is made. But who cares in the fall! With winter right around the corner, everything will die back and then come up fresh and new in the spring. Fall is also a great time to divide because the earth is warm and the nights are cool. This make a perfect environment for those perennials to establish healthy roots.
Also making it easy to be productive in the fall is the fact that you can see where everything is. When I have divided and planted in the spring, I often chose the same spots for planting and accidentally plant a division where something was already planted. The spot was already taken, but it was too early in the spring/summer growing season to notice it. In the fall, everything is up and established so it is clear-cut where the voids are in the garden, where the empty spots are that need filling. You also have the advantage of knowing what worked well. It’s still fresh in your mind, and you can duplicate successes.
Planting bulbs in the fall is a sure way to have a great-looking garden next season. Bulbs are a great investment for your garden and worth the wait. If you plant only one bulb, the globemaster allium is a must-have. They are my absolute favorite, as deer, bunnies, chipmunks, squirrels and mice will leave them alone because, being an allium, they are part of the onion family. Allium globemasters get very large and tall and are sturdy enough so you can avoid staking. They also last an unusually long time in the garden.
My second-favorite bulb to plant in the fall is the lily bulb, which I have talked about in previous posts. I love the strawberry-and-cream lilies from White Flower Farm and also the casa blanca lilies and stargazer lilies, which are both wonderfully fragrant. The bunnies will love to gobble on your lilies, so I recommend topping the soil with organic oyster shells. This helps deter animals from digging up and eating your bulbs as they are sharp, and they also will help amend your soil by adding nutrients as they decompose.
Another productive fall chore that will create a great looking spring garden is weeding. It’s one of those tasks you’ve been avoiding since you were busy with all the planting this summer! Not only will it look better, but if you don’t allow the weeds to go to seed in the fall, next season your garden will have fewer weeds. I like the saying, “1 year of seeding is 7 years of weeding.” Unfortunately it can be true. Again, this chore, too, is so much better in the fall as everything is up and established and the weeds really stand out this time of year. You can tell by now if something is a weed or that new perennial your neighbor gave you to try. If you don’t have time to weed, another approach is to simply cut the “flower” head off. Then it will not seed your garden.