Winter is approaching; while we still have pretty days to garden, spend them outside. Last week it was 70 degrees, tomorrow morning the weather forecasters say it will be about 30 plus degrees. We finally have had some rain after weeks of dry days. Here are a few chores and fun things to do to "put your garden to bed."
Plant cold weather color such as pansies and snap dragons. Winter is the time to put spring blooming bulbs in the ground. In our climate zone tulips are considered an annual but daffodils can last for many seasons. A little research will help you choose daffodils which are more tolerant of summers heat and humidity. There are so many bulbs in the trade–have fun and plant a few new ones. Quality companies providing nice bulbs also provide wonderful planting instructions. You can check on garden watchdog.com for a company’s reputation.
The leaves and the pine straw are falling as fast as we can clean them up making now the perfect time to start a compost pile. There is an art to building a great compost pile with a certain mix of ingredients. The Extension Service at ACES.EDU has informative publications on how to have successful compost.
Since we have an abundance of materials, now is a great time to mulch your gardens and flower beds. Since I don’t get enough straw, I often rake up what others are throwing away for mulch for my garden. Mulch will help improve your soil, protect your plants from the cold, and provide a pleasing look to your garden. Leaves chopped up with a lawnmower make an excellent mulch; be careful using fresh grass clippings, which may have been sprayed with herbicides and fertilizers, directly on the garden. Better to add them to the compost heap and let them decompose for next year.
Take a look at your trees as the leaves are falling off and remove any dead or diseased limbs. Now is not the time to remove living, healthy limbs with a major pruning. Pruning healthy limbs now on trees or plants will encourage them to sprout. This tender foliage can be bitten off when the cold does arrive.
Clean up your perennial and annual gardens. It is nice to leave the heads on your coneflowers for the birds to eat the seed. Speaking of birds, make sure your bird feeders are clean and stocked with fresh seed; keep your bird baths supplied with clean water so the birds have a drink.
Hoses can be drained and stored; irrigation systems turned off, and faucets wrapped for the winter. Make sure lawn tools are drained of gasoline if you don’t intend to use them over the winter.
And the most important thing about this change of seasons is that we are entering the best time of the year to plant in our area. Your new additions can spend the winter months developing a strong root system without worrying about flowers and new growth. Mother Nature will help keep them watered. (However, if we have extended dry spells you may need to provide a little extra moisture to brand new plantings.)
"Putting the garden" to bed is a great exercise; it will be neat and ready to face the harsh days of winter. The garden and you will have a whole new attitude.