Fall is a bittersweet time of beginnings and endings. Bright yellow school buses abound as children start a brand new school year. Rose bushes burst with their last colorful blossoms; tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are plentiful; and my kitchen is filled with the mixed aromas of spaghetti sauce, drying tomatoes and salsa. (Sometimes I feel like a squirrel readying my abode for the long winter ahead.) After a long summer of garden chores, and a September of harvesting and preserving, I always look forward to putting my garden to bed for the winter.
Fall is not the time to stop garden upkeep. Many of the chores you do now, help the garden get off to a good strong start in the spring. Keep weeding your garden through the fall. Cleaning weeds out now reduces the number of dormant weed seeds in your soil next spring. Water your garden until the soil temperature is about 40 degrees. (The air temperature will be much colder!)
Roots continue to grow and take up nourishment and moisture until the ground begins to freeze hard. After the first frost, clean out and compost the spent annuals. Do not add diseased plant material, because pathogens may not be killed by the heat of the compost pile. Don't leave unwanted produce in your garden to rot. Rotting produce attracts unwanted yellow jackets (wasps) and some fruits may reseed themselves in unwanted places next year. If you have excess produce in your garden, contact local food shelves. Many would be glad to receive your donations.
Perennials may be cut back after the first killing frost. However, many perennials are attractive to winter birds, including: Coreopsis, Purple Cone Flower, Black-eyed Susan, Liatris and Gallardia. The seed-heads of these perennials are natural bird feeders for seed-eating birds like sparrows, chickadees, and goldfinches.
Mulch your perennials once the ground has frozen. This will eliminate the chance for any unwanted winter guest taking up residence under your mulch while the soil is still warm. Mulching adds an extra blanket for your perennials, and gives them an added boost through the cold winter months. (Especially through the snow-less winters we've recently experienced.)
Here's hoping that your fall harvest is abundant, and your garden beds are clean and disease free.
DATE CHANGE: Do to unforeseen circumstances, we have had to change the date of the Carrol Henderson Winter Bird Feeding Workshop. The new date is Nov. 4. Meet Carrol at the New Douglas County Public Works building at 6:30 p.m. for a book sale and signing. The workshop will begin at 7 p.m. There is a cost for the workshop, and call (320) 762-3890 for more information.
Until next time, happy gardening!
Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.
~Douglas William Jerrold