Throughout the year, Nicole Crocker of Buddy and Bean Flower Farm provides tips to help Lowell residents transform their outdoor spaces.
Another growing season has absolutely flown by, and here we are in Fall again! I don’t know about you, but this was an extremely odd year for me. It was so busy I took a short hiatus from writing my column for Lowell’s First Look — so if we haven’t met yet or you need a quick refresher, hi there, I’m Nicole. I own Buddy & Bean Flower Farm, which is a small cut flower farm right here in Lowell. While what I do in my day to day tends to land more on the small-scale farming side of things and less on gardening for recreation, I still love all things green and growing. I love to talk about tips and tricks for getting the most from your garden, and especially gardening in partnership with native plants and insects.
How did your garden do this summer? If you struggled a bit, you aren’t alone — the growing season started off with a brutal drought that stretched well into the summer, which most likely stunted your annuals and stressed out your perennials. I know I had some very odd things happening with flowers I’ve grown for years. We’ve made a recovery, just in time to think about packing it all in for this season.
You may be tempted to just abandon your garden at this point in the year, but Fall is actually a great time to set yourself up for success for next spring. If you take the time to complete these fall tasks, your future self will thank you!
1. Make Notes For Next Year
All through the growing season and especially at the end of the year, I take some time to make notes to my future self on the season in general. You can use a notebook, but I like to use the notes app on my phone so I can easily add to it whenever an idea pops into my head. I keep a running list of observations and ideas through the growing season — but basically it’s a log of what worked, what didn’t work, and what I can do to make next year even better.
My notes range from planting times, what I want to grow more or less of, what I don’t ever want to grow again, those random brilliant ideas you know you’ll forget later, and observations on pests — I had less Japanese beetles in 2023 thanks to the notes Past Nicole took in 2022, a total note-taking success!
Reviewing your notes will help you when it’s time to order seeds and start planning for next season. By the time January hits and the seed catalogues are rolling in and you want to grow ALL THE THINGS, your list will be a great reality check.
2. Plant & Divide Perennials!
Fall is the BEST time for planting perennials! The absolute best. Planting perennials in the summer heat can stress them and stunt their growth. In the fall, they have a nice little window to establish roots and get cozy in their new homes before winter hits, so when spring arrives they’re ready to thrive.
Also, pro tip … many garden centers slash prices on perennials, so you can really stretch your dollars. If the plant looks a little bedraggled and sad, no big deal. Look around — all perennials start to look a little bedraggled and sad right about now. Rescue those sad plants and give them a shot at a better life.
You can also check out native plant sales. Establishing native plants in your landscaping is one of the very best decisions you can make for lower maintenance, beautiful plants that continue to look good for years. Bonus points for helping local growers AND helping to replace lost habitat for our native pollinators and other beneficial insects.
3. Clean up your beds and start spring prep now.
No, really. I know you’re so sick of weeding, everything’s dying anyway, you just want to leave everything until spring. But think about how much easier it’ll be to get your garden going in the spring if you take the time to clear out the plants and get everything prepped before it starts snowing. When the snow melts in the spring, you’ll be ready to go right away instead of having to clean up this year’s mess. Remove old crops, give everything a really thorough weeding (if you let them go to seed, guess what you’re going to get in the spring? Yep, more weeds), and then cover the soil to protect it from erosion. You can absolutely throw down some mulch now, but you can also use your existing yard waste for free — grass clippings are great, and so are all those leaves you’re going to be raking up soon.
There you have it! Three simple tasks to make time for during these last few warm weeks of fall that you’ll be so glad you got done by next spring. Is there anything you’d add to this list? Happy Gardening!
Nicole Crocker is a specialty cut flower farmer and owner of Buddy and Bean Flower Farm in Lowell. You can find her flower arrangements on her roadside stand when they’re in season. Connect with her on Facebook or Instagram, or at www.buddyandbeanflowers.com.