Plantwise: Autumn Attack Plan

The falling foliage is not only eye-catching, but it makes for great compost.

By Kate Bryant October 14, 2011 Published in the November 2011 issue of Portland Monthly

Fall leaves illustration ziiwgg


Composting The fiery leaves of autumn don’t just light up the trees—they are a nutrient goldmine, especially when layered with nonmeat kitchen scraps. For a faster turnaround, shred the leaves with a mower before adding them to the mix.

Planting Fall is a great time to plant cold-hardy trees, shrubs, and perennials. Try to act between the first seasonal rainfalls and winter’s saturation. You want soil that’s damp (not hard-baked from summer) but not yet sodden—digging soaked soil leads to compaction that inhibits root growth. Now is also the time to plant daffodils, tulips, and crocus, as well as garlic and shallots. Come December, they can still be found in nurseries (often at steep discounts), but plant them as soon as you get home. Indoors, try fuss-free paperwhite narcissus: plop some pebbles into a canning jar, add the paperwhite bulbs, and water just to the base of the bulb. Watch for their starlike blooms in about three to four weeks.


There is no better time to gawk at—or purchase—ornamental grasses. Along South Waterfront Park look for design firm Walker Macy’s sweeping, grassy plantings flowing in the cool breeze. See some blades you like? Snap a picture and bring it to Wind Dancer Grasses in Salem, where more than 100 varieties of grasses are flowering like mad and available for sale. Call ahead for an appointment: 503-364-5537.

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