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Nov. 08, 2015 | Donna Balzer

Slow down . . . you move too fast

Three garden tasks you don't have to do this fall

newDonnawebMowing down your perennials the way you mow your lawn is not the best way to spend your time this fall. If you have your shears in hand, gently place them on the shelf in the shed and take a minute to read this fast-breaking gardening news.

1. There is no need to cut back most perennials in the fall:

Gardeners often cut plants back to within an inch of their life while plants are still green, still blooming or still providing interest. If you cut back green plants, you remove stored energy and weaken plants.

Some perennials such as Bergenia and Peonies get awesome fall colour and will be showy for weeks yet, so why cut the beauty short? Other perennials, such as hosta, turn yellow and vanish, as they melt into the ground, all on their own, no effort required. Fall asters bloom into November in Calgary and will provide food for honeybees on sunny fall afternoons. Why cut them back at all?

2.There is no need to rake up all the leaves from around all the plants in your gardens:

Leaves play a role in keeping the soil mulched and moist. Instead of raking and bagging all leaves, leave them on the garden between the plants you are trying to protect. If leaves are dry and blowing around, moisten them with a sprinkle from your hose. Once damp, natural fungal glue sticks leaves together in clumps. (If you have leaves on your lawn, rake them onto your beds or bag them for later use in the compost pile.)

3.There is no need to apply chemical fall fertilizers on lawns and gardens in Calgary:

Our fall weather is so unpredictable, there is no way of knowing if the readily available chemical fertilizers will do good or simply wash away into our water tables, storm sewers and rivers. I have used slow release amendments such as worm castings or sifted compost on lawns and beds in fall because they boost the soil micro-flora without readily releasing nutrients.

If you are still not convinced to relax and take it easy this fall, remember standing perennials and shrubs such as Siberian Iris and Annabelle Hydrangea offer interesting form all winter and will trap whatever snow we get.

Now, if you really feel you have to do something with your shears, take them out again, give them a good clean and put them away well oiled.

Donna Balzer is a garden writer and entertaining speaker. Sign up for her blog feeds at or follow her on Twitter @NoGuffGardener.


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