As a gardener, the end of the growing season is a rather bittersweet time. On the one hand, I would love to keep the garden going and continue puttering around with my plants and flowers. But on the other hand, I’m looking forward to a break. A time to relax, reflect and recharge. I figure if nature can take a break for winter, so can I.
But before hanging up the gardening gloves, there are a few things that need to be tended to in the garden to get it prepared for winter. It too, needs to rest and recharge. By taking care of these in the fall, the garden will hit the ground running next spring.
1. Clean up the Garden
Clear out any annuals that have finished producing. Trim perennials down, leaving 2-3" of stem to protect the crown. Keep weeding! Doing just a little bit of this clean up now will save time in the spring. Feel free to leave some plants standing to give winter interest or because they feed the birds (like Echinacea seeds, right).
2. Soil Care
Applying a layer of organic mulch (compost, shredded leaves, grass clippings, etc) to the garden will not only add nutrients back to the depleted earth, but will also provide insulation during the winter, help regulate temperature and retain moisture.
3. Lift Tender Plants
Dig up tender plants such as dahlias, gladiolus, canna and elephant ears. “Tender” just means that the plant may not survive the coldness of certain climates and areas. Check your hardiness zone to see if this step is necessary. Here on Long Island, I’m in Zone 7b and these beautiful plants won’t survive our winters. They need to be lifted, cleaned and stored in an unheated garage or basement so they won’t freeze. Then they can be replanted next spring.
4. Plant Bulbs
Spring blooming bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinth need a bit of cold to bloom well in the spring. Fall is the proper time to plant these and can be planted until the ground freezes. If you can dig a hole, you can drop in a bulb! Trust me - a little time now will make you so happy in the spring when they emerge, adding a pop of color to the awakening garden.
5. Move Indoors
Bring in vacationing houseplants indoors before the temps dip too low and they are permanently damaged or killed. Check the pot for any cracks and look to see if the roots are pushing through the drainage holes. If so, its time to move the plant up to a larger pot, or divide it into two smaller pots. Add some additional potting soil, fresh water and bright, indirect light.
5. Tools and Equipment
Clean and sharpen gardening tools before properly storing them in a covered area. Wash your gardening gloves and hang them to dry. Drain the water from hoses and irrigation systems to prevent freezing and damage.
Finally, sit back and put your feet up. Reflect on your garden’s successes and failures, dream of new ideas/gardens/plants and take a nap. Spring will be here before you know it!