The leaves have begun to fall, your annuals have faded and your lawn has turned green again after a blistering-hot summer. It’s Mother Nature’s way of telling us to put the garden to bed for winter.
The Vegetable Garden
The first thing you want to do is to pull up old vines and vegetable plants. Insect pests that feed on these plants during summer and fall often lay eggs on the old plants so be sure to get them all out of the garden. If the vines are left on the soil surface, insect eggs will survive the winter and hatch in the spring. If you are pretty confident that they are not diseased you can work the old plants back into the garden soil. This adds valuable organic matter to the soil and, at the same time, destroys insects and their eggs. You may also want to add other organic material to your garden this fall. Composted manure, home-made compost, peat or leaves all are welcomed in the garden.
Pull up spent vines and foliage of annual flowers and compost them. However, if the plants are diseased be sure to discard them in the trash.
After temperatures hit freezing and the plants die back, cut the stems on most perennials to within an inch or two of the ground. Dispose of the cuttings; they can harbor diseases that could survive the winter and return to the plants in the spring. Some plants, such as Oriental poppies and iris, produce a cluster of green leaves in the fall. Leave these intact. Remove only the older, brown stems that remain form the spent flowers.
As the season progresses and the weather becomes colder, mulch the soil around the plants. This is generally done in mid-to late November. Mulch keeps roots cold. It doesn’t protect them from the cold. A plant can be hardy in more northerly latitudes where winter temperatures are severe but can be injured here, where winter temperatures fluctuate considerably. The alternate freezing and thawing of exposed soil can damage roots and even heave them out of the ground.
Recommended mulching materials for perennials include hay or straw, evergreen boughs, pine needles, peat moss and cornstalks. These mulches are light and won’t pack or suffocate roots. Apply to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. A few plants, however, such as peonies and bearded iris, don’t require winter mulching and , in fact, do better without it. Mulching can cause their thick, fleshy roots to rot. As with other perennials, though, they require watering during dry winter conditions.
It doesn’t matter where the weds are–the vegetable garden, flower beds or the lawn–this is a good time to get rid of them. Consider this: Weeds that are spread by seed produce thousands more seeds. Better to pull them this fall to reduce their spreading now and next spring.
Tree and Shrubs
Shorter days and falling temperatures are prompting deciduous trees and shrubs to drop leaves and prepare for winter dormancy. Limit fertilization in fall, as nitrogen stimulates useless late-season growth and delays dormancy.
Do continue to water trees and shrubs through fall, sending them into winter with ample moisture. It also will be necessary to apply water every three to four weeks throughout the winter. Dry soil kills roots and puts stress on trees and shrubs. Water when temperatures are above freezing and when the soil is not frozen. Apply water early in the day so plants will have time to absorb moisture before soil might freeze at night.
Of course, if you don’t feel like doing any of this work you can contact Pemberton Garden Services and let is take care of it for you.
Best of luck and happy fall.
Pemberton Garden Services