Putting your garden to bed is a gradual process that takes time to complete. When we finish, sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the ground is most likely frozen and even the hardiest of hardy plants have had it. Because we’re still several weeks from Thanksgiving, I’m giving you a list of things that need to be completed before you think about going inside and sitting by the fire.
• Deep water your trees, especially the evergreens. Don’t forget the plants that are under the eaves of your house. Broadleaf evergreens, like rhododendrons, need a drink, too.
• When cutting back perennials don’t cut off the new green leaves that form at the base of some plants. They’ll be perfectly fine through the winter. Some plants that form rosettes of new leaves in the fall are chrysanthemums, salvias, sedums, and penstemon.
• Dig and store summer bulbs such as dahlias, begonias and cannas. Clean them well, removing any diseased or insect damaged parts. Dry for a few days then store in insulating material like peat moss. Keep them in a cool, dry spot for the winter. Check the stored bulbs occasionally throughout the winter and remove any that show signs of decay. Repot them in late winter and by spring you’ll have new plants for your garden.
• Don’t prune your roses until spring! If they’re in your way, it’s okay to prune back a little, but do your main pruning when the forsythia blooms. If you planted new roses, the graft should be below ground. If not, use mulch to protect that grafted area.
• Mow your lawn shorter, but don’t scalp it. If left too long, it may lie over and create a nice environment for fungus. Cut too short, the crown may experience winter damage.
• Do the final fall fertilization on your lawn. Use a slow release fertilizer.
• Mulch perennials after the ground freezes to regulate soil temperature and keep the plants from being heaved out of the ground.
• Clean out your vegetable garden. Some of the insects we fight all summer will overwinter in garden debris. Think squash bug.
• Use your leaves! Cover your garden with shredded leaves and till them into the soil. Mulch with them around your perennials. Shred by running over them with your lawn mower. The smaller the pieces the faster they break down. By next spring they’ll be mostly decomposed adding wonderful nutrients and humus back to your soil. Take my word for it; leaves are the best things you can recycle right in your own yard.
• Run the gas out of your lawn mower or add gas stabilizer so things aren’t gummed up (professional lingo) next spring.
I have a lot more chores on my list, but lucky for you, my space is limited. Eventually gardening season will take a short break and we’ll be able to sit down, look through our garden catalogs and plan for the next season.