Autumn Preparation for Your Flower Garden is difficult for beginners in the gentle art of gardening to realize how much time and patience are required to make succeed. It is equally difficult at first for them to understand that flowers to bloom in late Summer and early Autumn must be planted, if not the year before, certainly in very early Spring, and that the Spring garden must be prepared in the Fall. There is no busier time in the garden than September and October, and no more delightful season for the gardener’s work. After the first two weeks of September excessive heat does not return, and at any hour of the day, it is a delight to be out-of-doors.
Everything accomplished in these Autumn months is so much gained for the following Spring. First of all, there are the seeds to be gathered for why incur the expense of buying when those raised in your own garden may be just as fine and much fresher than those from the seed stores? Small cardboard or tin boxes, each with a pasted label with the name of the seed it contains, are the best in which to store the seeds. Gather the seeds from the plants into a cigar box, and after carefully removing all the husks and dead particles, transfer them to the labeled boxes. Only enough of the annuals should be allowed to form seed pods to supply the quantity needed for sowing.
Among the seeds easiest to gather, and surest to grow the following spring are Asters, Balsams, Centaureas (Cornflowers), Cosmos, Calendulas, Poppies of all kinds, Marigolds, Nasturtiums, Sunflowers, Zinnias, Hollyhocks, Sweet Williams, Foxgloves, and Larkspurs. Sweet Peas should not be allowed to form seed pods or they will cease to blossom.
Care must be taken to store the seeds through the Winter in a perfectly dry place. In case they are left in an unoccupied country house they should be protected from mice, as all flower seeds seem to be articles of delicacy much appreciated by these creatures. The flower seeds can be gathered all through the months of September and October until the plants are killed by frost. When gathering them do not omit the little black bulbils found on the stems of the Tiger Lilies. These should be planted as soon as dried, in some sunny place marked with sticks, which are not to be removed during the winter, to ensure that the ground where they have been planted will not be disturbed in the Spring.
Pansy seeds may be sown the first week in September in rows, in rich soil that has been made very fine. Water them daily, and by the time the ground freezes they will be nice little plants, able to endure the Winter. Do not transplant them this first Autumn, but allow them to remain until the Spring in the rows where they have grown. They will do better next year if undisturbed. Pansies, however, that were sown in July may be transplanted in October to their final places. If they have been grown for flowering next year, all blossoms should be cut as soon as they appear. In this way, the plants become larger and stronger. In localities where the Winters are severe, a light covering of leaves or mulch will help the plants to make an earlier start in the Spring.
If new beds and borders are to be made in your garden, the first days of September are not too early to begin. When these have been carefully staked out, the ground should be dug out two feet in depth and all stones removed. Put first a foot of old manure in the bottom of the bed, and then proceed to fill up with alternate layers, of about four inches each, of topsoil (that taken from the first foot of soil taken out) and manure. If the topsoil is of a clayey nature, it should be put in a pile and mixed with one-fourth of sand to lighten it before returning to the bed. This should be filled very full, as with the disintegration of the manure the bed will sink.
The owner of the garden may have noticed during the Summer that plants in certain beds or borders have not done well. The earth has seemed hard and dry, and the plants have not been luxuriant either in foliage or bloom. The soil is either poor or exhausted, or it has not been properly prepared. These beds should then be re-made by lifting the plants, setting them, after watering well, in a shady place, and proceeding exactly as if making new beds. It is best to take up at one time only so much space as can be entirely finished and the plants reset in one day. The ground thus pre- pared will raise splendid plants for several years if given a top dressing of fine manure in the Spring after the plants have started.
Autumn Preparation for Your Flower Garden planting should be done sufficiently early for the plants to become well rooted before the ground freezes, and a good covering of leaves or litter must then be given them late in the fall. No garden, however tiny, should be without a few of the spring-flowering bulbs. They are not expensive. Indeed, in reading the catalogs one is surprised to find how many can be had for a small sum. No special place needs to be prepared for them; they can be planted anywhere among the other plants. Single and double Tulips, Daffodils, Emperor and Von Sion Narcissus, Narcissus poetics, and single and double Hyacinths, Lily-of-the-Valley, and the gay little Crocuses and delicate Snowdrops, once grown, will become the dearest friends. The middle of October is a good time to plant them.
The last work of all in the garden, but not the least important, must be postponed until the end of November. This consists in giving the flower garden, in all localities where the Winters are severe, a covering of leaves or mulch. The plants will start earlier in the Spring and be better and stronger for this protection. They should not be covered, however, until the cold weather really sets in, and care must be taken to uncover the beds early, about the 25th of March. Often during the frozen Winter, the gardener’s thoughts will dwell upon his sleeping plants, and when remembering the Lily bulbs placed in the earth in the Autumn he can but think how in the Spring they will rise into a new life, crowned with the loveliest bloom. This is the reward of Autumn Preparation for Your Flower Garden.