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Fall Flower Garden Clean-Up

By goldfinch4
November 23, 2016

If you're like me and live in a cool climate, your gardening season will soon be coming to an end for another year. You've either got loads of work ahead of you cleaning out your flower gardens or you are ready to sit back and relax and leave the clean-up until spring.

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Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
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valleylynn
Sep 4, 2011 7:31 PM CST
Chris I loved the article. It is encouraging me to get out and start working through the perennial beds. I do like to leave the dried seed heads for the birds though, I can still clean up leaves. : )
Name: June or Nancy-June o
Dover AFB, Delaware (Zone 7a)
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JuneBug
Sep 5, 2011 12:29 AM CST
I hate the untidy look of the beds when they aren't cleaned up...but I like to feed the birds. I try to throw the seedy tops of plants to the side and then arrange them into big bouquets to hang on the fence. I had one of the worst springs of my garden's life trying to do the cleanup without compacting the soil and killing all of the perennials, so I won't wait until then again Thumbs down
Name: Brenda
Dolores, Colorado
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bsavage
Sep 5, 2011 1:37 AM CST
Great article, Chris! But I have to say I'm on team spring cleanup... All of the fallen leaves mulch our gardens for the harsh winter ahead, and honestly, I keep my gardens going as long as possible. I'm very reluctant to put it to bed before it's time... and in the spring, DH and I can't wait to get out there and clean, prune, plant, and build. So for me, fall is a time to just enjoy the last days of the garden, and spring is the time to re-new, re-build, clean up and plant.
Name: Carole
Clarksville, TN (Zone 6b)
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SongofJoy
Sep 5, 2011 3:17 AM CST
I agree

Good thoughtful article, Chris. I take care of the leaves in the Fall and the rest in the Spring.
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched -- they must be felt with the heart. ~ Helen Keller
[Last edited by SongofJoy - Sep 4, 2011 10:19 PM (+)]
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Name: Allison
NJ (Zone 6a)
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Onewish1
Sep 5, 2011 4:21 AM CST
same here.. leaves gone in fall.. flower heads in spring
Name: Chris
Ripon, Wisconsin
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goldfinch4
Sep 5, 2011 6:35 AM CST
Appreciate your comments! June, what a great idea to make bouquets of the seed heads and hang them on the fence for the birds. That's something I will definitely do this fall. Thanks! Thumbs up
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Name: Mary
The dry side of Oregon
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MaryE
Sep 5, 2011 7:17 AM CST
Nice article, thank you. I'm working on mine already.
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Name: Kay
Lincoln, Nebraska
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chickadee
Sep 5, 2011 7:15 PM CST
I am a "clean up in the fall" gardener too. With so many chores to do in the spring, I prefer my gardens are ready to get growing, rather than let all plant material stand during winter. Great article!
Name: Bob
Vernon N.J. (Zone 6a)
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NJBob
Sep 5, 2011 9:29 PM CST
I'm a fall clean-up. I have a lot of Echinacea and they would be everywhere if not cut back, Generally it is also easier to do the clean-up in fall.I don't cut back Ferns they overwinter better when not cut. Also don't cut down the large Ornamental Grasses, I like the way snow looks on them in winter.
Name: Chris
Ripon, Wisconsin
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goldfinch4
Sep 6, 2011 1:54 AM CST
I leave my ornamental grasses stand through the winter too for the same reason. Grasses and shrubs provide my winter interest in the gardens.
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Name: Kate
NEKingdom of Vermont (Zone 3a)
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LabourofLove
Sep 6, 2011 6:00 AM CST
With perennials, I cut everything to the ground (literally) and rake it off to a composting area. I don't leave a foot of stems, or an inch of stems - TO THE GROUND. I do this in my own gardens and those of my clients. This prevents insects, their eggs, and small critters from overwintering in the plants. Also removes any fungally-infected leaves that could become potential problems the following season. A clean garden at the beginning of the season is MUCH easier to weed before weeds really take hold.

Perennials become one of two things if uncut over the winter: slimy and repulsive to clear off in the Spring (daylilies and other soft-leaved plants) or woody and splintery (Phlox and other tall, strong-stemmed plants). Both are incompatible with an efficient clean up in the Spring. Weeding around last year's daylilies is nasty and around last year's phloxes is painful.

I, too, love my grasses, but they get cut with everything else because the winds and snows of Winter break them into pieces and (if I left them) I would need to spend an entire day picking up the razor-sharp pieces in the Spring.

It's a no brainer.
Kate Kennedy Butler
Glover, Vermont

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Name: Christine
Southeastern MN (Zone 4a)
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Christine27360
Sep 6, 2011 8:11 PM CST
I like to do it in the spring with Daylilys and Hostas... being from MN, the added cover helps the plants over winter. Some plants I cut back in the fall, like the black-eye susans and the safe and the Cone Flowers and the clematis etc etc... I guess I am a Fall AND Spring gal!!!

I best get to my pile of mulch -- we have spring, summer and mulch for our garden season!!! Whistling
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Name: Chris
Ripon, Wisconsin
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goldfinch4
Sep 7, 2011 1:15 AM CST
Kate, when I cut back my plants, it's all the way to the ground too. Otherwise I end up with 6" pieces of everything I have to cut back in the spring anyway.

Hilarious! Yes, mulch is a wonderful thing, isn't it! Do you have a lot of clematis Christine? I think the black-eyed Susans are one of the worst I have for reseeding everywhere.
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Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
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valleylynn
Sep 7, 2011 12:09 PM CST
My Blackeyed Susan doesn't seem to reseed here. It does make runner plants though.
Name: Jamie R
Zone 5b, WI (Zone 5a)
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JaeRae
Sep 9, 2011 1:14 PM CST
Kate and Chris: when you speak of cutting perennials to the ground, I get phlox, echies, but are what about iris, asian, oriental, and daylillies, roses? Those too?
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Name: Chris
Ripon, Wisconsin
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages Forum moderator Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Database Moderator
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goldfinch4
Sep 9, 2011 4:09 PM CST
I do leave about 6" fans on my iris standing, I don't have roses so can't help there. Daylilies get cut down to the ground and my asiatic and oriental lilies have usually dried up enough that I can just pull the brown stalks right out of the ground without disturbing the bulbs.
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Name: Christine
Southeastern MN (Zone 4a)
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Christine27360
Sep 9, 2011 7:49 PM CST
I leave the Black eyed susans for the little winter critters and yes -- they reseed and go crazy here.
I also leave the Clemantis - cut the sticks off in the Spring!!
I do cut my Iris's back to about 6 inches.
I usually cut Dayliliys back in the fall if they have been in the ground for over a year... else if they are new this year I leave them.
Asiatic/Oriental - cut back like Iris.. or pull them right out like Chris.
Hosta's leave them and deal with the mess in the spring time!! Thumbs up
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2 Corinthians 9:6
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
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kqcrna
Sep 10, 2011 5:13 AM CST
I'm all for fall clean-up, too. I yank most annuals but on a few I just cut off at ground level and leave the roots to feed the worms. Most perennials I cut to within a few inches from the ground. That way, if my labels blow away or get broken by deer stomping them, the remaining sticks serve as the markers.

I often try to mulch the cleaned beds with mulched leaves, then wet them to keep them there. Still, most blow away in the winter winds.

Karen

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