There’s nothing like a stroll through the gardens in the fall — we consider it a must-do activity in Amish Country. Our horticulturist, Ashley, works year round behind the scenes to keep the landscape looking its best. With each season comes the chance to grow something new and exciting, to try to top last season’s beauty. Fall is an especially important planning period, the time to set up for spring flowers and keep things manicured. Here’s a list of Ashley’s top fall gardening tips and tasks.
1. Save the seeds. Take all those slightly mushy pumpkins, gourds, and squashes on the porch, open them up, and harvest the seeds for the birds. This can be a fun project with the kids, even if it’s a little messy. A tarp or disposable tablecloth makes cleanup easier. Dig out all the seeds and spread them on trays to air dry or pop them in the oven on low heat to speed up the process. Put the dry seeds into a food processor to make smaller pieces that even the tiniest backyard birds can enjoy. Fill the bird feeder right away or store your seeds in a cool, dry location to put out when winter gets frigid and birds have fewer food options.
2. Bolster your wildflower population for next year. Collect and save seeds from wildflowers to sow next spring.
3. Start planning for spring color now. Plant spring bulbs (tulip, crocus, lily, daffodil, hyacinth) among perennials and groundcover. They’ll pick up right where you left off not long after the snow melts and burst right out of mud season with bright colors.
4. Get your shrubs planted. Plant any new woody shrubs and trees that support birds in the winter with shelter and warmth.
5. Be a home-builder. Leave winter homes for birds and insects. Then, when they move in, grab those binoculars and put the Audubon Society’s 3 Steps to Birding into good use. Ornamental grasses, sunflowers, and perennials like black-eyed Susan, coneflower, blazing star, asters, and Joe-Pye weed make a great winter seed source for birds. Leaving plant material in the garden also provides winter homes for insects, pupae, and eggs. The insects help battle the bad pests of the garden, and provide a food source for small woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches.
6. Toss the leaves. Leaf buildup can harbor disease and rot, so the best thing to do is get rid of the leaves altogether. Shred them with the mower, or rake them up and add them to the compost pile.
7. Create a bird mecca. Add a heated water source to the garden for birds in the winter.
8. Take care of your tools. Winterize equipment. Sharpen and oil tools for winter storage. Make sure to do this right as winter comes in to prevent rust and damage before spring.
When it’s time to get out in the fresh autumn air and get your hands dirty, these fall gardening tips are a great place to start. Of course, sometimes it’s more relaxing to enjoy a garden without the work — come take a walk at The Inn at Honey Run and see Ashley’s tips in action, no trowel required.