Putting the Garden to Bed

Putting the Garden to Bed
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Putting The Garden To BedPutting the Garden to Bed is an old fashioned phrase that refers to cleaning up the landscape and gardens before winter comes around. I hesitate to refer to this as fall chores because that sounds tedious.

I’ve always loved cleaning up before winter because while I’m doing it my thoughts are on the spring garden, new projects, what plants worked and what didn’t work.

I end up taking breaks to jot in my garden notebook and I enjoy working outside with my hands, as well.  By the time I’m finished, I have a grasp of what I need to do in the spring. Below are tips on putting your own garden to bed.

Dig up tender bulbs and tubers such as dahlias, cannas, caladium and gladiolus before its cold enough to frost. Be gentle, and store them in a cool, dry spot for the winter. Don't store them in plastic bags, which can cause mildew, instead using paper sacks or cardboard boxes.

When annual vegetables, herbs and flowers are taken up and composted or disposed of it's a good time to get the soil ready for spring. Sprinkle the ground with bone meal, and a layer of compost and/or fresh manure. This will work its magic over the winter and in the spring it can be dug into the soil before planting again. It's often recommended that raised beds be given as much as a three inch layer of compost and manure in the fall. Anything you do now will benefit your soil and prepare it for spring.

If you have a spot that you want to turn into a flower or herb bed in the spring, it's best to start working on it now. Measure out the area, and then place a fairly thick layer of manure and/or compost or other organic matter over the area. Before doing this, pull out any especially large weeds that have thick stems, the rest can stay.

After laying down the organic matter, place black plastic over it, using garden staples, rock, bricks or something heavy enough to keep the plastic in place throughout the winter. Leave this in place until it's time to plant in the spring. Yes, there will still be some digging, but nothing like what you'd have to do if this wasn't done first.

Perennial herbs will benefit from a 3-5 inch mulch of straw, compost,
mulched leaves or peat moss. Wait until after the first frost, and then place the mulch around the herb plants. Mulching isn't really going to protect the plants from extreme cold, but what it will do is keep the ground moisture more even, and keep the ground from heaving when the temperatures bounce back and forth enough to cause a thaw then freeze again. This is often what damages plants, rather than the cold.

Chives are hardy perennials, but they can be brought inside when a couple of conditions are met. Dig up a small clump, which can be divided from a larger plant. Plant the chives in a medium sized pot using potting soil. Do not bring it in the house yet. Allow the foliage to die down and freeze for several weeks. Bring the pot indoors to a sunny, cool spot. Water lightly and it will begin growing again so you can harvest chives throughout the winter.

There is still time to plant or move lilies, hostas, peonies, day lilies and other hardy perennials. Prepare the holes, making sure they are big enough to fit the roots without crowding. Amend the dirt you remove from the hole with a handful or two of bonemeal and compost before filling in over the plant roots. Water well and mulch at least three or four inches.

Lastly, clean all areas of your landscape before winter arrives. Remove debris, burning or discarding them if it appears to have mildew or other disease. Healthy foliage and spent blooms can be added to the compost pile, cutting the larger stems into pieces. Cut back perennials, unless you are leaving seed heads for the birds. Rake away leaves, foliage or anything else from flower, herb and vegetable beds. This helps remove and deter insects and disease. Once the ground is just starting to freeze, mulch everything with organic material such as grass clippings, hay, chopped leaves, compost, manure etc. A mixture of these materials works well as a mulch.

You May Also Enjoy:
Nutritional Benefits of Pumpkins
End of Summer Chores for Your Yard
Bringing Your Plants Indoors


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at Harvestmoongazette.blogspot.com.


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