Don't let recent cool temperatures make you think that the gardening season is over. Fall is a great time to get a few last chores done and get a head start on next spring. Here are a few items to add to your fall garden "to do" list.
It's not too late to plant spring bulbs. While bulbs should be planted as soon as possible, they can be planted until the ground freezes. Select firm, disease free bulbs. Plant large bulbs such as tulips and daffodil 6 to 8 inches deep. Small bulbs such as crocus and grape hyacinth should be planted 3 inches deep. Be sure to plant bulbs with pointed end up and flat side down.
Clean annual plant debris from vegetable and flower gardens. This includes plant remnants and weeds. Don't underestimate the power of a few weeds. Remember the saying "One year of seeds equals seven years of weeds."
Perennial flower beds should be mulched. Be sure to do this after plants are dormant, around mid-November. Mulch with a loose organic mulch to a depth of 3 to 4 inches. Most plant debris can be removed from the garden, however ornamental grass foliage can be left as it adds winter interest to the landscape.
Start a compost pile with leaves and garden debris. Many gardeners enjoy turning composting leaves, lawn clippings, shredded twigs, and vegetable and food waste into something that can be reapplied to the landscape. Composted material is a great soil amendment. A compost pile should be contained structure. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate- tie four pallets together or stack several layers of concrete blocks together. The minimum size for a compost pile should be 3' x 3' x 3' and the maximum size is 5' x 5' x 5'. For compost bin ideas stop by the Master Gardener demonstration gardens located on the Illinois State Fairgrounds in front of building #30.
Enjoy the beauty of fall while preparing your garden for winter.