As I look around the garden, seeing some of it still in bloom, it is hard to believe fall is here and it is time to start putting the garden to bed for winter. I like to use a check list so I don’t forget anything, but even though there is a routine to follow I let the weather and the garden dictate whether and when to do each task. For example, seed heads and foliage that’s coloring up can be beautiful, and the seeds provide food for migrating birds so I just cut back plants that are diseased and those looking past their prime and leave the rest until spring.
I just finished cleaning out the veggie garden. Everything that wasn’t diseased with fungus went into the compost pile. There are no hardy vegetables in my garden but they could be left beyond the first frost. (As a special treat I uncovered an “enormous” orange slug which was still hanging around!) Since I like to prepare soil in the fall for spring planting, I dug the beds with a fork and put down and raked in dehydrated manure. Now the veggie garden is ready for spring planting…I will add compost then.
One of the most important things in preparing for winter is to water evergreens deeply because they are susceptible to dehydration by cold winter wind. The reason for this is that when the ground is frozen in winter evergreen plants can’t take up water to replace what has been taken out of their leaves by the wind. By hydrating them in the fall you can protect them by giving them an extra reserve of water for their leaves.
Cleaning up fallen leaves and plant debris (and I put everything in the compost pile except diseased leaves) is an ongoing chore because I usually wait for the plants to pass their prime before removing them from the garden. Of course, with our extended fall and late winter conditions my gardening tasks have been continuing until January!
This year I added some new plants to the garden so these have been mulched to protect their roots. You need to do this for transplants also.
Then, by the end of the month, as an additional protection for my evergreens against the wind, I will put up windbreaks using burlap attached to rods. The most effective windbreaks are permeable, to allow some air to pass through and diffuse. Windbreaks will effectively reduce the force of wind for a distance that is about six times the height of the windbreak. The force of the wind is like a wave of water hitting a barrier.
Finally, there are two tasks that require considerable work and time and which will be covered in blogs later in the month, so come back then. I will discuss winterizing roses and preparing new beds for spring planting.