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Proctor's Garden: What not to do in the fall garden

Think twice about how you tidy up your garden during the fall season.

DENVER — In pursuit of tidiness, people often do things in fall that are either counterproductive or downright harmful to plants.

1. Don't rake leaves

Good soil comes from years and years of leaf drop. Don't rake leaves out of perennial beds. They will crumble and decompose over winter, enriching the soil with vital organic matter. Sending leaves to the landfill is counterproductive. 

2. Don't prune roses

Pruning encourages new growth that may begin on warm winter days, only to be killed back by the next arctic blast. Prune hybrid tea roses in mid-spring. Shrub and landscape roses such as 'Knockout' rarely need pruning; remove dead or damaged canes in spring as well. 

3. Don't cut back spring-flowering trees or shrubs

They've already set buds. If you cut off or trim branches now, you're cutting off the spring flowers. Any pruning they need should only be done right after they bloom.

4. Don't cut back perennials or ornamental grasses

Wait until late winter to start cutting back perennials and grasses. Leave them alone now. Grasses, in particular, are four-season plants. They're meant to be enjoyed in every season, including winter. Perennials with seed heads, such as coneflowers, also provide food for finches and other birds.

5. Don't leave your patio pots full of soil

When wet soil freezes, it expands. This pressure pushes against the walls of the pots and cracks them. Empty the pots, turn them upside down and protect them with a tarp or down-turned pot saucer. 

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