The leaves are starting to change color and fall to the ground and the weather is starting to change.
Although the earth is getting ready to go dormant over the winter months, now is the time to get your garden ready for spring, local gardening experts say.
Dean Savarino, owner of Dean’s Landscaping, said fall is the perfect time to seed a new lawn, cut down perennials and clean up flower beds. It’s also a good time to plant new trees and do pruning.
“Anything you plant does a lot better when you plant it in the fall, before everything goes dormant,” he said.
Savarino said even though that might seem like a contrary notion, it works because there is less stress from heat and draught on the plants during the fall than during the hot summer months.
“If you plant things during the summer, you have to baby it,” he said. “If you plant in the fall, you have that many more months before it gets too hot.”
Bryon Angerman, nursery manager at Alsip Home & Nursery and president of the St. John Tree Board, said fall is the best time to plant spring flowering bulbs since they’re dormant during this time of year.
Gardeners should select bulbs that are firm to the touch, like a potato. They should be planted at two times the depth of the bulb, and should be spaced between 2 to 4 inches apart for smaller bulbs like crocus and between 4 and 6 inches apart for larger bulbs, like tulips.
The soil should be well-drained and contain a mixture of organic soil, peat, sand and/or manure, he said. Bulb fertilizer and a squirrel deterrent are also recommended, he said.
“Most bulbs will continue blooming for many seasons if they are planted properly and the soil is adequately prepared,” he said.
Christine Aylesworth, a horticulturalist at Taltree Arboretum in Valparaiso, said fall is a good time to do general clean-up, like pruning damaged or dead trees, roses and shrubs.
Aylesworth recommends cutting back perennials and dead-heading phlox and other plants to prevent snails, slugs and other pests.
She also suggested removing fallen fruit from the ground to prevent pests, and to weed the garden to remove any weed seeds.
She also suggested using fall as a time to add new flower beds, either by digging in the ground or creating raised beds.
“The easiest method is to lay out a garden hose to outline your new bed,” she said.
Beds can be edged by wood, stones or any other materials to create a border, she suggested.
To build a raised bed in a grassy area, start by placing about six to 10 pages of newspaper on grass, then adding manure and a mix of compost and top soil.
“It will settle over the winter and be ready to plant in the spring,” she said.
Savarino said if you have any major landscaping improvement plans, fall is a good time to start talking to a landscaper about them so your home is one of the first on their spring schedule.