Let’s face it; gardening in the spring is always a lot more fun than in the fall. Spring is all about a new beginning while fall is the beginning of the end. I always have a touch of melancholy in the fall despite the pageantry of the changing colors of the leaves and the beautiful last blooms of the mums and asters. I’m always looking for something different to do at this time of year and I’ve got 4 projects that I’ve done in my own yard that you might want to try this year.

I often find that in the fall my mind wanders towards planning for next year. One plan I always seem to have in my head is where will I put my next new flower bed. The problem I often run into is that there are so many tasks to perform in the spring it leaves little time for anything new. This is particularly true if that project involves pulling up sod. One way I’ve found to get around this is to lay weed block, a cloth that is placed on the ground to keep weeds down, on the sod in the shape that I want the new flower bed to eventually look like. I lay mulch on top of the weed block or secure the weed block to the ground with stones. By the time the following spring rolls around the sod under the weed block has been killed and the soil is ready to be tilled.

If like me you have problems with deer in your area than this second project may be one you want to consider. I tried it for the first time this past year and it worked out very well. While if they are hungry enough deer will eat just about anything they do have a tendency to stay away plants that have fragrant or aromatic oils in their leaves. If you, a family member, friend or neighbor have flower beds filled with plants such as catmint, Russian sage, rosemary or lavender you can use these plants as a repellant for deer. I simply collected the branches of these plants at the end of the season and wove these branches into shrubs like azaleas and other similar plants that deer seem to be attracted to. I did not get one nibble on these plants all winter long and when I cleaned them out of the shrubs in the spring they still had their aromatic fragrance to them.

One of my least favorite but necessary tasks in the spring is to set up stakes to support and tie up plants that have a tendency to flop over. Inevitably, these stakes deteriorate over time and I end up having to replace them. One project I do in the fall that helps me replace those stakes is to save the thicker stems of certain plants and use them as stakes the following year. The stems of cosmos and sunflowers often grow more than 2 inches thick during the growing season as well as 4 feet tall or even higher. When it comes time to clean them up in the fall I simply pull the plant from the ground, remove the roots and I’ve got a stake for next year. I sometimes get several seasons out of these stakes before they need to be tossed but it’s a great way to save some money and I never run out of them.

Finally, one of the major tasks that we all have to perform in the fall is cleaning up leaves. They have a lot of potential uses in the garden ranging from compost to mulch. One additional way I use them is to chop them up with a leaf vacuum and store them outdoors in a black garbage bag. Rather than purchase new soil for my containers I take the chopped up leaves and mix them into the existing container soil. As the leaves break down during the season they improve the container soil and also help the soil retain a little bit more moisture. This really worked well for me the past few seasons and I plan to do this project again this fall.

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