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When it comes to fall gardening in CT, here are 4 things to keep in mind

Valley fog wafts through the autumn-colored hills near the Picket Hill Farm, Wednesday morning, Oct. 13, 2021, in Denmark, Maine. The farm complex was built in the 1830s.
Robert F. Bukaty
Valley fog wafts through the autumn-colored hills near the Picket Hill Farm, Wednesday morning, Oct. 13, 2021, in Denmark, Maine. The farm complex was built in the 1830s.

Many amateur gardeners in Connecticut might be quick to write off the fall season.

Don’t do that, horticulturist Charlie Nardozzi says.

The challenges may look a little different, but fall gardening is just as rewarding, he says.

Nardozzi, who’s also host of Connecticut Garden Journal, discussed fall gardening with Connecticut Public’s Where We Live.

Setting up a garden for success for the fall (and beyond) can be broken down into four categories:

Tip 1: Prep

Before rolling up your sleeves, it’s best to prepare your garden for success. Gardens are susceptible to issues like rot, flooding or pests.

Raising garden beds a couple of feet helps to prevent water from pooling, which causes plants to rot. Raising beds also stops rabbits and groundhogs from getting into the garden. Gardeners who can’t bend down or get on their knees for long periods of time will be satisfied, too.

Preparing your garden for the next spring season is just as important.

The best time to clean up? It’s not before winter begins, as some may have learned.

“What we found out in the last bunch of years is that that's not the best thing ecologically for our garden,” Nardozzi said.

Instead, wait until the start of the spring season.

That will help pollinators, like bees and birds, have a place to spend the winter. Gardeners can clip parts that are an eyesore, but leaving things alone is the most ecologically-healthy choice, Nardozzi said.

Tip 2: Companion planting

Don’t just plant to plant. Having an idea of what you want to do not only helps the eyes, but it helps the plants, too, Nardozzi said.

For bulbs, try using a technique called companion planting. That's where bulbs are planted together.

"Think of it in terms of either a container or a hole in the ground," he said. "Instead of just having a whole bunch of bulbs kind of scattered out in a big garden area," the bulbs are placed in one spot.

Plant bigger bulbs — like daffodils or hyacinth — deeper in the soil; then add some soil and put in medium bulbs, like tulips; after adding some soil, place smaller bulbs — like crocus — closer to the surface. That method allows them to blossom at different points in the season.

“That would extend the flowering season … You will have color in there for a number of weeks,” Nardozzi said.

Tip 3: Look at the packaging

Packaging is especially important to inspect. Packaging indicates if bulbs are designed for early, mid or late-season.

Fall is a good time to plant garlic. Nardozzi said that garlic cloves in grocery stores, which are likely from California, may not be best to grow in New England soil. Instead, visiting a farmers market or garden center to get locally-grown garlic is best.

Trees require just as much discernment. Fall is a good time to plant trees, Nardozzi said. Be sure to know what you want from the tree in advance — whether it's designed for shade or to attract birds.

"Think about your uses of that tree in the landscape, why you want to have this tree in the first place," he said.

Bigger trees need more space in the yard while others need varying amounts of sun and water.

Tip 4: Consider no-dig gardening

For those who want to start to expand their garden, the end of the fall season is the best time to do it.

Nardozzi suggests a no-dig gardening technique: Create a garden on top of the ground in a way that doesn’t disturb the soil. First, cut the grass low and wet and lay down a couple layers of newspaper. Next, add around 6 to 8 inches of straw or hay. Then add compost on top, and let it sit for the winter. Once spring rolls around, you can plant right through the layers.

“It's better for the plants because you have all those nutrients in the soil. All that dead grass is actually fertilizer for your plants,” Nardozzi said.

Learn more

Listen to the full conversation with Charlie Nardozzi on Where We Live.

Connecticut Public’s Tess Terrible and Catherine Shen contributed to this report.

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