While the recent temperatures have remained summer-like, I have noticed that some trees are beginning to change color. It’s not too early to start thinking about preparing your garden and yard for winter. It’s not unusual to see snow fly in November, and I know I’d rather do my outdoor chores in a light sweatshirt than bundled up in a winter coat!
If your garden and flower beds still have some plants standing, now is a good time to remove them. This will help avoid diseases and pests that can over-winter in the plant material and cause problems in next year’s plants. Remove any unpicked vegetables to avoid them going to seed, which will result in hundreds of volunteer plants next year. After all the plants have been cleaned up, sow a cover crop down. I usually rake the surface of the garden strips or raised beds, throw on some rye, and rake it around again. Sometimes it will then get covered with a little straw or grass clippings. Rye is cheap, so I tend to put the seed on pretty heavily to get a thick stand.
After pruning out the dead perennials from the flower beds, I’ve found the beds are great places to use up some chopped leaf mulch. For winter, mow your grass a little shorter. This is supposed to help suppress disease and fungus that could over-winter in taller grass. It also allows those pesky fall leaves to blow off your yard and pile up along fences, in corners, etc. Piles of leaves are easier to gather up than leaves across the entire yard. Or, you can run your lawn mower through the leaves, chopping them up finer. They make a wonderful mulch or addition to your compost pile, and chopping them up helps them to decompose faster. Flower pots should also be emptied, cleaned, and stored for the winter.
Don’t forget about your tools. Take the time now to clean up your gardening tools, sharpen anything that needs it, and put everything away. Drain and wind up hoses and empty rain barrels and any plumbing they have so that they don’t freeze and bust. You’ll be ready for next spring that much faster! While you’re at it, make sure to find your snow shovel because nothing’s worse than waking up one morning and needing it…yet having no idea where it’s actually located. Happy autumn!