Even though it's been an unusually warm fall in my part of the country, winter will come, so I have to get my garden ready. I have fun with the end-of-season chores, knowing it's my last chance to play in the dirt before next spring.
If you will allow me a little disclaimer before we start. How you winterize your garden depends on where you live. I'm going to tell you what I do in the mountains where temperatures plunge well below freezing and snow covers the ground for two-three months. To find out what to do in your neck of the woods ask a neighbor with a green thumb or your local cooperative extension service.
Leave Your Leaves
I don't know of a better way to waste time, energy, and money than to rake fallen leaves into plastic bags. Raking the leaves off your lawn is like tossing a good meal into the garbage. Leaves are valuable sources of organic matter; when they break down they enrich the soil.
Before you do anything with your leaves, chop them up with your lawn mower. It's best to do this before all the leaves fall, otherwise the pile may be too thick for the mower. Then:
- Rake some of the chopped leaves into your garden beds.
- Rake some onto an old bed sheet or a plastic sheet and make a pile somewhere to the side of your garden. You can make a pile just of the leaves or add the chopped leaves to your compost pile. Either way, the leaves will decompose and form rich humus.
- Leave a thin layer of leaves on your lawn. Don't make piles; that can kill the grass. The chopped leaves become fertilizer for the lawn.
- If you want to make a new garden, spread a couple of inches of compost or manure over the spot, place seven layers of newspaper on top, and then pile a foot or so of chopped leaves on top. You will have a rich planting bed in the spring.
Protect Potted Plants
Where I live protecting the tender plants that grow outdoors in summer means bringing them in the house. Before I bring my rubber plant, hanging begonias, weeping fig, and dozens of other houseplants into the house I check them carefully for signs of insects or disease. If I'm concerned about bugs I may spray them with a non-toxic insecticidal soap. I always clean the leaves and remove any dead or dying leaves or stems. I may have to trim them back a bit if they've gotten too big for the house. Then I move the storage bench seat from the patio into the house and put the smaller plants on it. I put the hanging plants on their hooks and place the floor plants on special saucers that protect the hardwood floors.
Grow Great Garlic
Garlic is an easy and satisfying crop to grow. You plant the garlic cloves in rich soil in late October for a July harvest. This is a necessity for me, because I love garlic and fresh is best. As with garlic, you must plant spring-flowering bulbs like daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and crocus in the fall before the ground freezes.
Once you get your critical chores done, it's time to shop for garden accessories. You've just spent the summer in the garden, so you know what tools, furniture, and other garden ware you need for next year. Plus, some of it is on sale in the fall. (I have my eye on the Kingsley Bate sale.) Have fun, knowing your garden will be even better next year.
Stan Horst lives and gardens in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. He uses his carpentry skills to enhance his garden and the grounds around his rental cabins (www.cabincreekwood.com). Stan enjoys exploring the woods and mountains near his home with his wife and two teenage children and their dog.
on this article or submit your tip to CreativeHomemaking.com.
for a printer friendly version of this page.
Follow me on Pinterest
Receive new article links via Twitter
Follow Creative Homemaking on Facebook
this article to a friend!
our article archives.
to subscribe to our weekly newsletter.