By Bev Johnson

Master Gardener

Cooler weather and shorter days are an indication that gardeners need to get fall chores started. One of the most important jobs is removing all the weeds. Letting even one stay means a hundred of them to deal with next summer.

There should be at least 6 weeks before the first hard frost so any plant, shrub or tree planted now will have a running start next spring. Since the nurseries need to thin their inventory before winter, they are having sales on most plants, trees and shrubs.

Wander through your flowerbed and note which plants aren’t doing well, which had done too well and which you disliked. Start with the disliked ones. Dig them up then check with other gardeners to see if any of them would like to have a hunk of it. No takers? To the compost with it. Most gardeners have I.B.M. plants— that is-I’ve been moved. If they don’t do well in one spot, try another. Some that are supposed to be shade plants need at least some sun during the day, usually morning sun. Very few plants do well in deep shade. Then there are supposedly full sun plants that just beg for a little shade from the hot part of the day. Protect them by tucking them on the East or North side of a taller plant to make them happy.

If all the plants in a particular area look a bit smaller than they should, do a soil sample of the area. Maybe you need to add some compost or humus to the soil. It could be in an area that doesn’t get enough water when you irrigate. Or they could just be too crowded. 

Most plants do better if they are thinned out regularly, iris especially.  If you see an empty hole in the middle of an iris clump, it’s past time to dig the whole clump up, divide it and replant only the rhizomes with a healthy fan of leaves on it.

Cut all the leaves off your iris to about 6 inches tall. This helps prevent the iris borer a place to winter. And, you won’t have a clump of snotty leaves to deal with in the spring. When you mulch for the winter, don’t add much mulch to the iris. They don’t like their rhizomes to be heavily covered at any time.

If, like most gardeners, your iris seems to have acquired a nice crop of grass intermingled with the leaves, pull as much as you can then spray the rest with a grass killer. It won’t hurt any plant but kills the grass. It turns brown and dies but isn’t nice enough to disappear so you still will need to pull the dead stuff out….but at least it’s dead.    

Once all the iris leaves have been removed, your flowerbed will look like a kid with his first very short haircut, bare. This will enable you to see where you need to add a plant. Check around iris.  They have a habit of cuddling up and hiding smaller plants, or just overrunning them. 

It is a great time to add a plant to your garden to fill that bare spot. Your nursery is thinning out its inventory as they want as few plants, shrubs and trees to winter as possible. You can probably afford that plant that you thought was too expensive. Buy it! the nursery will love you; your garden will love you and your pocketbook will sigh with relief.