Put your garden to bed: Tips from Toronto writer & horticulturist

Ken Brown of Toronto to speak in Hamburg NY
Ken Brown of Toronto will speak at Lockwood’s Greenhouses Fall Garden Fair on Saturday, September 8. Photo courtesy of Gardening-Enjoyed.com.

Labor Day is approaching, the kids are heading back to school and the sun is setting earlier and earlier. Autumn is on its way, but that doesn’t mean that the gardening season is over, according to Toronto garden writer Ken Brown.

Brown, a horticulturist who landscaped exhibits at the Toronto Zoo, will be the featured speaker at Lockwood’s Greenhouses Fall Garden Fair to be held Saturday, Sept. 8 at Lockwood’s Greenhouses, 4484 Clark Street, Hamburg. The fair includes several great talks and demonstrations (pre-registration is required; see the entire schedule below) as well as vendor booths.

While Ken Brown is a common name, it’s still an amazing coincidence that there are two men by that name who are well known in gardening circles. Ken Brown of Buffalo is the host of the Home Garden Show, which airs at 11 a.m. Saturdays on WBEN Radio 930 AM and 107.7 FM.

The Ken Brown who will be speaking at Lockwood’s lives in Whitby,  just outside of Toronto. You can subscribe for free to his newsletter, Dallying in the Dirt, and read his advice at his website, Gardening-Enjoyed.com.

He did landscaping for tropical exhibits at the Toronto Zoo. To maintain the proper climate conditions, those exhibits are housed inside pavilions. He used his experience creating those indoor exhibits and went on to operate an interior landscaping firm.

Brown has done some outside commercial work, too, and for a number of years he grew vegetables on his one acre of land to feed his family. His children have grown up and left home, but he said he can’t seem to cut back his gardens.

In a phone interview, he shared a few tips with us on “Putting the Garden to Bed.” He will also speak on “Growing Plants from Seed” at the Fall Garden Fair.

The biggest thing people have to remember, Brown said, is that gardening doesn’t end at this time of year.

“I’m still planting Brussels sprouts in late November,” he said. “There’s so much yet to do.”

One thing you can do in autumn to put your garden to bed is to undertake some clean up. When should you begin? Your garden will let you know.

“Clean plants up when they look dead,” he said. “As things turn yellow and fall over, you can cut them down. When they quit, clean them up.”

mildew zuchini from gardening-enjoyed
Clean out mildewed zucchini leaves in the fall. Photo courtesy of Gardening-Enjoyed.com.

Since plants end their growing seasons at different times, you can space out your work.

“You can putter away at it,” Brown said. “It’s not as if one weekend you have to go out and put the whole garden to bed.”

The reason you need to clean up dead plants is to prevent pests from spreading. For example, the iris borer survives as eggs on dead iris leaves, so you want to get those out of your garden to control that pest. Another example is zucchini, which tends to get mildewed leaves. If those leaves remain, the mildew spores will be right in your garden soil, making it that much easier for mildew to grow next year.

Don’t put those iris leaves or mildewed zucchini leaves in your compost, Brown said. Instead, gather them up, put them in a bag and get rid of them.

If your town or city gathers up lawn clippings, those leaves will go to a composting facility. However, Brown points out, those composting facilities have piles that are much bigger and hotter than a home compost pile and probably will be able to kill the harmful pests.

You may have heard that leaves are good mulch for your garden beds, and that’s true, too. He allows leaves from apple trees to remain in his garden.

“I even steal them from my neighbors,” he said. “They make wonderful mulch. And maple leaves in a vegetable garden are highly unlikely to hurt anything.”

In his talk, Brown will explain which leaves to rake out of your garden and which to rake in.

Autumn is a time to prepare for next year, and that includes not just cleaning up dead plants, but planting new things, too, he said.

“This is a wonderful time to plant deciduous shrubs and trees,” Brown said. “They have a chance to put good roots into the cool soil.

lilac transplant from gardening-enjoyed.com
Autumn is a good time to plant shrubs. Photo courtesy of Gardening-Enjoyed.com.

“Nurseries have them on sale, too. They’re less expensive, and it’s the perfect time of year to plant them. The nurseries would rather sell them now than go to the trouble of having to overwinter them, so you’re doing them a favor when you buy them. It’s a win-win for both sides.”

Check out our Upcoming Events Page for sales.

Autumn is the perfect time to plant bulbs, too.

“Buy a bunch of bulbs and put them to bed and they’ll reward you in the spring,” he said. “Don’t forget that there are bulbs other than tulips and daffodils.”

Snow drops are the earliest to bloom, literally as the snow recedes, he said.

Another very early bloomer is bulbus iris, an iris that grows from a bulb rather than a rhizome. It’s a week ahead of the crocus. Still another pretty spring bulb is puschkinia.

Don’t forget about garlic. You plant it in October to harvest next summer.

You can learn more about putting your garden to bed by attending Brown’s talks at Lockwood’s Fall Fair.

While admission to the fair is free, the classes are $10 each or $35 for all four. Please pre-register in person at Lockwood’s, by telephone at (716) 649-4684) or online .

The fair will include more than 24 local vendors and artisans offering garden art, jewelry, nature-themed décor, gifts, pottery, props and tools. We’ll be there, too, so stop by the Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com booth and say hello!

Lockwood’s Fall Fair schedule

9:30 a.m.

“Best in Show: Trees, Shrubs and Flowers” with Sally Cunningham

Superior plants in Western New York gardens, showing featured plants from the National Garden Festival’s nearly 1,000 showplace gardens. The talk includes a plant list and door prizes.


11 a.m.

“Putting the Garden to Bed” with Toronto’s Ken Brown

Ken Brown, Ontario’s garden writer and radio & TV personality, is a popular and entertaining speaker, often seen at Canada Blooms and U.S. flower shows. This engaging talk outlines our fall gardening activities— harvesting, planting, bulb selection and preparing the beds and plants for our often-severe winters.


Great luncheon selections (featuring food from Mary Claire’s) in Lockwood’s picnic grove


1 p.m.

(Choose One; pre-registration is required)

(a) “Growing Plants from Seed” with Ken Brown

Delve deeper into horticulture and gain access to a wider range or flowers and vegetables. Ken removes the mystery of seed-starting so that you can turn a packet of dry, lifeless appearing seeds into healthy young transplants.

(b) “Design a Welcoming Entry” with Mary Gurtler and Samantha Platt

Designers will fashion three different styles for a home entrance—hanging baskets, swaths and wreaths, and containers. They include gourds, grasses and fresh and dried materials.


2 p.m.

“Edible Wild Plants and the Edible Home Landscape” with Ken Parker

Ken Parker, a Native American, native plants expert and nurseryman (CNLP ), shows us—in pictures or hands-on—edible plants you can find in the wild or grow at home. The talk includes recipes, sample teas and tastings.

2 Comments on “Put your garden to bed: Tips from Toronto writer & horticulturist

  1. I have never met the Canadian Ken Brown, but it is good to put a face to the name since I have heard so much about him.

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