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Putting Your Garden to Bed

 
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A good cleanup in the fall is well worth your while for a healthy, vital garden next spring.  Get started by pulling up vegetable plants such as tomatoes, squashes, peas, and beans. Compost the disease-free ones; put sickly or blighted ones on the burn pile or discard away from the garden. Pull up and put away garden stakes and tomato cages.  Don’t forget to clean up dead or declining annuals... and remember marigolds, calendulas and zinnias are easy to grow next year, from the seeds you save.

Before the leaves fall, remove garden weeds and debris, so insects and disease won’t over-winter there. A layer of compost and leaves will feed your soil naturally over the winter.  If you have some hopelessly weedy spots, cover them with black plastic (held down with rocks) until spring. You’ll kill off weeds and grass without chemicals, and will “cook” many sprouting weed seeds. You can re-use the plastic for many years in your garden, and you’ll love having fewer weeds to pull.

montford flowers

Perennial herbs and flowers go dormant in the fall, and don’t require special treatment other than removal of dead stems. Perennials should be cut back to about 3 inches and mulched after the ground has frozen hard.  Herbs planted in pots, such as sage, rosemary, chives, oregano and thyme can come indoors for you to enjoy in soups, breads and casseroles during the winter.

Tuck in some fall bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, and crocus behind your perennial plants. Garden centers and home stores have lots to choose from, and you’ll love being ‘surprised’ in the spring when they pop out of the ground and show their pretty faces. As the perennials come back, they’ll hide the spent bulb foliage. Again, less work for you!

"Fall is a great time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials; they can put all their energy into root growth."

Empty the soil from outdoor planting containers to keep them from cracking during the winter, and store them upside down. Clean your trowels, pruners, and other garden tools and put them away so you won’t have to search for them in the spring. To protect them from rust, rub them lightly with a little vegetable oil on a clean rag or paper towel.  Drain the water from garden hoses and roll them up neatly. Add fallen leaves to your compost pile. Don’t forget to drain and properly dispose of the fuel from your lawn mower, weed eater, etc. before cold weather; they’ll run better with fresh fuel in the spring.

Fall is a great time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials; they can put all their energy into root growth. You can find some great deals in garden centers this time of year.  Tag the perennial plants you want to divide,  so you don’t have to search for them in the spring.

That wasn’t so hard! Now, kick back and wait for the seed catalogs to start arriving, and start dreaming and making plans for next year’s garden.