Five Fall Gardening Tips

Even though it’s mid-November, there’s still plenty to tend to in your flower and vegetable garden.

Now’s the time to trim back mums, prepare the soil in your vegetable garden for the spring planting season, and dig up bulbs and bring them indoors before the cold winter months set in.

We asked the experts at Greenstreet Gardens to answer questions on mum care and more in our November Gardening Q&A.  Not certain, when to cut back large ornamental grasses, or if it’s too late to aerate the yard. We have the answers to those questions as well.

In December, the staff at Greenstreet will provide helpful tips on Christmas Tree care and poinsettias. Do you have a gardening question you would like answered in our monthly column? Send it to


I love all of the colorful mums in my flower beds. Once the season is over, how should I care for them so they come back again next fall?

Trim off dead flowers and dead foliage now. Water (don’t drown it!) and add a two to three inch layer of mulch to protect the roots during winter. When the mums begin actively growing in the spring, you’ll need to pinch them back to encourage fall flowering. When stems are about one and half inches to two inches long, pinch back or remove have an inch of the stem. Make clean cuts with either your fingers or with a small pair of garden shears. Pinching is essential to stimulate blooming. Keep to a regular feeding schedule according to instructions on the plant food of your choice. They should re-bloom starting in September.


English: Close-up of yellow mums.

Now is the time to trim off dead flowers and foliage on the mums in flower beds.

What should I do now to prepare the soil in my vegetable garden for the spring planting season?

Remove diseased plants and those that are too big to decompose over winter. Chop up the smaller remains of freeze-killed plants and incorporate them into the soil; as long as they’re small pieces they should decompose over winter. Add compost – homemade or commercially bagged – Coast of Maine’s Lobster Compost is excellent for vegetables; it’s loaded with calcium that veggies love, especially tomatoes.  Simply adding lots of nutrient rich compost is the single best winter task to prepare vegetable beds for next year.

I have a lot of ornamental grasses planted in my flower beds. When should they be cut back?

Ornamental grasses usually stay looking good through the cold months and provide much needed winter interest in the landscape. But they do need to be cut back regularly to maintain health. A good rule of thumb is to cut back grasses (and liriope) “when the forsythia blooms” – which is usually March. So when you see the tell-tale yellow flowers, get out the pruners. If after cutting back you notice the center of the clump is brown, it’s time to divide the grass. This will probably need to be done in 3-5 years after you originally planted the grass. Dig it up, cut it into thirds or fourths, discarding the brown center, and replant one of the pieces. Use the remaining divisions in your yard or share with friends and neighbors.

I planted Cannis in my flower beds. Do I need to pull up the bulbs and bring them indoors?

Cannis have been surviving winter in the ground, especially these last few winters, If they are up against the house, they are protected and can stay there. If they’re planted out in the open, it’s a good idea to dig them up, store them in a cool dry place (not in plastic bags. The condensation will rot the bulbs), and replant them after all danger of a freeze has passed.

 Is it too late to aerate and seed the yard?

Yup. The seed will not germinate this late in the year, it’s just too cold. Wait until March/April.


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About Cynthia Giorgio

I'm Cynthia Giorgio, co-founding editor of South River Source. I love to write about the people, places, news and events in South County. Send story ideas to or call me at 301-906-4767.

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