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Share your fall cleanup shortcuts!

10 years ago

Soon it will be time to sharpen the shears (even though I never actually do sharpen my shears) and tackle the fall cleanup. Some plants are easy while others are just a giant PITA. Some are best done in the fall, others left until spring. I'd like to hear what timesaving measures work for folks, as I'm always keen to work as smart as I can with big tasks like this.

Here's a few shortcuts I've found:
Oriental poppies - in midsummer when they get horrid looking, I don't cut them back, I just put a shovel at their base and pop out the whole plant in one swift move. The plant reappears from the taproot and I've never had this actually kill a plant. They are overzealous as it is and this saves tons of time.

Daylilies - if I wait until spring rather than fall, the foliage pulls away from the crown. I just yank it off and no cutting is needed. Sweet!

Hardy geraniums - some of these can be cleaned up by yanking away the stems from the crown.

Saliva - if I wait until spring I can break off the stems rather than cutting them. It's much faster this way.

I have some rangy areas with yarrow, lambs ears and other 'meh' plants that I think I'm going to just cut back with the weedwhacker.

Here's plants that are a PITA and make me want to reach for the shovel instead of the pruners:

Catmint Six Hills Giant - takes forever to cut down. Karl Foester grass is also a tough one to cut down. One of mine is almost 3 feet across and that's a lot of snip, snip, snip... snip, snip.... am I done yet? (I've heard about the chainsaw method but I don't own and chainsaw and don't want to.)

Siberian iris - I let these stand over the winter because they are really pretty through November. But by spring they are a floppy mess and the tough leaves are difficult to cut through.

Blue oat grass - I read that you are not supposed to cut them but rather to comb through them and pull out the dead leaves in the spring. But after a few years the plant gets crowded in the crown and actually needs to be cut back. I did that this spring and the plants seemed to like it. But I'm not sure how often to do this. Anyone know?

What other cleanup tips and conundrums do you have?

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