If you want a successful green space come spring, you have to do some work in the fall — that’s the reality of gardening. But as any good gardener knows, a little work now pales in comparison to the benefits you reap when blooms are at their best. Tamra Ansel, grounds supervisor at the Ohio Statehouse, provides some tips for fall and winter lawn and garden preparation that will give your yard a boost next year.
October 2010 Issue
Peparing for Spring
The Ohio Statehouse’s green guru gives fall gardening tips.
Ansel, who oversees the maintenance of the grounds, works with a staff of six to make sure that the Statehouse looks stately in every season. As grounds supervisor for the past five years, she takes care of six acres of lawn and bed areas. And as every gardener should, she takes full advantage of the fall to clean up her site. According to Ansel, you can forget spring cleaning — for gardeners, now is the time to tidy up.
“Fall is the time to clean up and to get ready for the next year,” she says. Cleaning includes weed control and the removal of any debris.
“As far as the lawn, people often forget about weed control in the fall, but it’s a great time to get rid of any weeds that are established, and to take care of any perennial weeds that are going to come back next spring,” she says.
And while you’re weeding, make sure to apply a weed-and-feed-type product — this will allow you to both rid your plot of established weeds and feed the lawn in the areas that you’ve cleared.
Removing weeds from your flowerbeds is critical, too. And according to Ansel, it’s important to eliminate any perennials whose flower stocks are spent. Gardeners also should make sure to remove any debris left behind by diseased plants.
“For instance, if you’ve had problems with black spots on your roses, like many people have had this year because of the wet summer that we had early on, you need to get rid of all of that debris,” she says. “If you don’t, then that pathogen is going to winter over in your bed, and it will be there for next year.
“If you do one thing,” she continues, “make sure to get rid of any disease or foliage that you know you have a problem with.”
And, of course, Ansel and her staff also plant their tulip, daffodil and hyacinth bulbs during the fall. The Statehouse team has recently switched to using all species-type tulips, because hybrid bulbs are only good for two years. Now, says Ansel, they have year-after-year blooms.
“We like to plant [the tulips] in a group. We dig a hole with a shovel and put in three to five bulbs, so when they bloom you don’t end up with that lined-up ‘toy soldier’ effect. If one doesn’t bloom, it looks odd. Planting them in clusters gives you more of a naturalized setting,” she advises.
And as for the winter? Ansel says there’s still a lot you can do. As long as temperatures don’t drop below freezing, she and her staff prune and do transplants, moving plants from one area to another. It’s also a good opportunity to repair any equipment and brush up your skills (Ansel says she renews her pesticides license and certified arborist license; home gardeners could simply take a gardening seminar or two).