Fall Gardening: Prep for Winter

by Anne Rivas

Fall is my favorite time to plant.  I know I have it backwards, but I’ve always liked gardening better in the fall than in the spring. Some perennials can still be planted/divided, as can spring-flowering bulbs. The soil is warm, dry, and crumbly – a pleasure to work with.

If you’ve kept up with the weeds, they’re slowing down now.  If, like me, you haven’t kept up with the weeds, they’re going to seed now and must be destroyed.  Weed seeds put into the compost over winter become the gift that keeps on giving when you spread the finished product over your garden, as  home compost piles may not get hot enough to kill those seeds over the winter.  One year, after spreading compost in the spring I had volunteer tomatoes and gourds in my front yard.  I loved it but my neighbors took a dim view, especially when the aphids ate their back-yard tomatoes and left mine alone.

Anne Rivas
Anne Rivas

Put weeds with seeds in the trash instead of the compost.   Annual flowers and vegetables that are done and not diseased can be composted or dug back into the soil.  Diseased plants go in the trash.

Collect seeds from plants you like and scatter them where you want them to grow next year.  Last year I collected seeds from various places and let them over-winter outside. They sprouted in the spring and I finally planted them in the garden. I hope they’ll survive this winter.  Unfortunately, I didn’t label anything, so maybe I’ll figure out what they are next year.

As you continue to mow your lawn, let the clippings and shredded leaves lie.  They’ll decompose and feed your soil.  If you get too many leaves on your lawn to shred and – er – leave, run over them a few times with the mower and put them in your compost, set them aside until the ground freezes and use them for mulch, or dig them into your garden.

Continue to water everything well, particularly trees, shrubs, and roses.  Remove old mulch under roses any time now and apply new mulch at the first hard freeze.  Mulch keeps roots cold and protects them from frost heave during the winter.  Don’t forget to drain the water out of your sprinkler system, if you have one, before the first hard freeze.  After that you risk damage from water left in the lines.

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