With the chill in the air causing my plants to fade, I know it is time to prepare my garden and other plants for the colder winter months. My vegetable garden had a rough year with the hot summer months and the drought that we experienced. My cherry tomato plant actually died a bit throughout the drought, even though I watered it everyday. Once, we got some rain, I noticed some new growth one day when I was enjoying the weather from my outdoor balcony. However, it wasn’t too long before it started getting chilly at night and the plant was finished altogether.
I also noticed that the plants on my rear terrace are loosing their color and their leaves are dying. Although everything is dying back, I still love the fall with the changes of color. It also provides a chance to review my plant arrangements and even plant some perennials for next year. In fact, if you can get new perennials into the ground before it freezes, they will have plenty of time to establish strong roots and get a head start for healthy growth for next year. This year I planted some ornamental grasses and a few mums in the spaces where I dug up my dead annuals. They will give a bit of flair in the space until they go completely dormant later in the winter.
Additionally, I take advantage of this time of year to remove broken sticks, dead plant material and even pieces of litter that find their way into my gardens. Once I have all the unwanted clutter cleaned up, I usually put a layer of leaf litter and mulch over the area. This helps protect the perennials and other roots of trees and shrubs from the frost and snow of winter. The mulch is especially handy for trapping moisture for roots and keeping them hydrated. However, sometimes I forget to keep the mulch away from the trunks of trees and bushes. My husband usually remembers this step and moves the mulch away from the trunks to avoid decay. He is always looking out for my plants and me.
I used to be a big-time pruner, but alas no more. I have found that many plants have a greater survival rate when I do not cut them back for the winter. The mums from previous years keep coming back bigger and stronger ever since I stopped cutting them back in the fall. Now I let them die back naturally, and remove the completely dead foliage come springtime when new growth emerges. Another reason I mostly quit pruning is because I noticed that there were little buds and insect nests on some of my bushes. I didn’t want to disturb the growth of the bush or the bugs. I do, however, prune back my yew bushes and some of my smaller trees as well as cut off dead limbs. It makes them look a bit neater and helps the trees grow in the spring.
As for my vegetable garden, I tear out all the dead and dying vegetable plants and make a burn pile. Since we live in one of those farmhouses outside county lines, we are allowed to burn plant material. I take the ashes and mix them into the garden soil since it provides a lot of nutrients. Since my chives and strawberries are perennials, I cut them back and cover them with mulch to protect from the colder weather. This is also a great time to divide up my iris bulbs and replant them so they will multiple. Iris’ grow near the top of the soil, so it is pretty easy to separate them. They are also very hardy and have no problems coming back every year in larger bunches.
While I am doing all this tough yard work of cleaning up dead stuff, my husband gets the fun job of aerating the lawn. He rents a gas-powered aerator from the landscaping center near our house. All he has to do is push it along and it takes a lot of plugs from the lawn and leaves the cores behind in the grass. This really helps support stronger grass roots for the future. After all is said and done, we retreat back to our home’s comfortable country kitchen layout for some hot chocolate and dinner. It is such good feeling to have the lawn, garden and landscaping cleaned up and ready for the cold weather.Pin It