Gray skies are going to cheer us, we have a happy face…
What? Those aren’t the words to the song??
They should be, at least around May Dreams Gardens here in central Indiana. It’s been raining off and on since yesterday afternoon and the skies are overcast. My garden has gotten way more than one inch, but not quite two inches, of rain, near as I can tell.
Once the rain ends, I am hoping for some cool, sunny weather so I can start stripping the sod off the area where I want to plant a new tree and add a big planting bed.
I’ll use the sod pieces to fill in some bare spots that invariably show up in the lawn after a dry summer. It’s an easy way to get rid of the sod without filling up the compost bins. Just drop the sod piece in the bare spot and stomp it down with your foot. Stomp, stomp, stomp. The ground is nice and damp now so I won’t even have to water those spots. Then by spring you won’t even know where I filled in the bare spots.
And I’ll get going on some real garden clean up, too, even though I am not behind in my fall clean up. There’s plenty of time, so I can take it nice and easy and following my own clean up tips.
Here are ten of those tips that I’ve come up with after cleaning up my Zone 5 gardens in the fall for
ten, twenty, more than twenty years. (Your tips may vary depending on your climate.)
Tip 1. Clean up and compost any perennials that get all mushy after the killing frost, like hostas.
Tip 2. Leave the dried up perennials that didn’t turn to mush after the frost, especially if they have seed heads for the birds to eat or you are short on time. Or you can cut these perennials back if you are concerned about self-sowing or just like a tidy garden in the wintertime. The exception is hardy mums, like those pictured above. Wait until spring to cut mums back, to give them their best chance of wintering over.
Tip 3. Don’t compost the peonies. Peonies can be infected with botrytis blight which can be spread through the compost. In fact, don’t compost any plants that look diseased. Throw them out. An exception might be powdery mildew. I don’t think it matters what you do, if a plant is likely to get powdery mildew, it is going to get it, regardless of what’s in the compost.
Tip 4. Pull out and compost all annuals. They’re done after the first frost anyway.
Tip 5. Empty the soil from containers. For bigger containers, I sometimes empty just the top several inches and leave the rest for next year. The exception is if the plants in the container were diseased, then definitely get rid of all the soil and clean the container thoroughly.
Tip 6. Clean up garden ornaments, furniture, and containers before you store them for the winter. I’ve learned that if this stuff is dirty when you store it, it will still be dirty when you get it out in the spring.
Tip 7. Carry heavy items as short a distance as possible when you put them away. Save your back! I used to haul all the stuff on the back patio around the side of my house to the garage. Then one fall I was pulling a cart with a big clay pot on it and the pot rolled off and broke in half. This was at about the same time that I realized that I had acquired more stuff than would fit in the garage anyway. So why was I trying to haul heavy stuff all that way? Now I stack up most of the back patio ‘stuff’ in one corner of the patio and throw a big tarp over it.
Tip 8. Toss a few moth balls under the tarp to keep the animals out. When you store stuff outside with a big tarp over it, some critters like raccoons may want to set up housekeeping under the tarp. The moth balls seem to keep them out.
Tip 9. Weed the garden and flower beds. When you trim back perennials and pull out annuals, you’ll find some weeds that were hiding, hoping to winter over unseen until spring. If you weed a little now, it will save time in the spring.
Tip 10. The last time you mow the lawn, take it nice and slow and savor the moment. Kidding! I know some of you don’t share a love of mowing. The real tip is when you mow the lawn for the last time, lower the blade and cut it about an inch shorter than normal. This assumes you follow the good advice of “mow high”.
I think that’s a good start on some fall clean up tips. Do you have any other tips to offer?