Fall garden clean up is essential to the long-term health of your garden. If you get your garden ready for winter properly, it will make a big difference next spring. You won’t be dealing clean-up, catch-up and diseases, you will be enjoying the simple pleasures of planting early and enjoying the spring bulbs.
Typically you want to start getting your garden ready for winter right after the first frost has killed off most of your tender veggies. If your garden plants are no longer producing and earlier clean up can certainly be done. My tomatoes and squash are no longer producing and there are no green one left on the vine. So out they go today!
Pull up, spray off and put away any cages or stakes used in the garden. Remove all of the spent plant material from the garden. Dead plants, old fruit and vegetables and any diseased plants should be removed from the garden beds and disposed of. If the spent plant material was healthy, it can be composted. If any signs of disease, it should be disposed of either in the trash or by being burned. You can risk re-infecting disease to your garden if you compost diseased plant material. Rake any left over debris. If left in the garden, insects and disease can overwinter in it. I like to till to soil. You can work some fall leaves into the vegetable garden soil at this time and they will break down over the winter. Don’t just layer over the top and leave for the winter months. Till it in! This is the time to spread compost, composted manure or other fertilizers onto the vegetable beds. By doing this now your soil will be looser and easier to work in the early spring months. You can also plant a cover crop for the winter which will add tilth and fertility to your soil for future plantings.
Continue to water trees until the ground freezes if you haven’t receive fall rains. Especially evergreens.
Wrap the base of young fig trees with burlap. Young trees can die back completely if the winter is extra cold. I like to wrap loosely and fill with straw or leaves as an extra insulation. Don’t uncover until ALL chances of frost are gone in the spring.
Rake leaves often. The work can seem daunting if you only rake once. A little here and there is certainly a lot more enjoyable. Besides if leaves are left on the lawn to long, they can get slimy, smoother and weaken the grass. You can run your mower over the to break them down if done often or catch them in the bag and use the shredded leaves as a winter mulch in perennial beds or just add them to the compost pile. They are great for that! Leaves that haven’t been shredded will take longer to break down and they can repel water and stay dry for years. So shred them if possible either with a chipper shredder or running your mower over them. Make leaf mould simply by piling shredded leaves with a sprinkle of water in layers and left to sit for several months. Of course turning often and adding moisture will break them down faster.
Apply fertilizer to your lawn in the fall encourages winter hardiness and promotes quick greening in the spring. I really like using Cotton Seed Meal for this.
Do one last weeding and discard any weeds that have weed seeds. Any seeds left will germinate next year and come back to haunt you. One crabgrass plant has the potential of producing 10,000 seeds in a season! To bad they aren’t tasty!
In the perennial gardens I like to leave some seed heads of my Rudbeckia, Echinacea and other perennials for winter interest and feeding the birds. I do however,remove them after the seeds are gone. This gives me a little sun and time in the garden on warmer winter days.
Pull out all annuals that have been hit by frost and toss into the compost pile.
Plant spring bulbs before the ground freezes. Put a tablespoon of Bone Meal into the hole where the bulb is going.
Don’t cut back roses back yet. This should be done early spring.
Preparing your garden, especially the vegetable garden will help your garden stay healthy from year to year!