Putting the Garden to Bed

Fall is the time for cleaning up garden beds and protecting perennial plants. Here are a few things I do to prepare my garden for winter.

Feed plants. To help plants prepare for winter, I limit fertilization but feed perennials by working in compost around the beds. The compost slowly breaks down in winter, releasing nutrients to the plants and improving the soil structure.

Water perennials. Perennials, trees, and shrubs should go into winter with ample moisture. Water them deeply in the morning a few times a month to get them through the cold months.05 Putting the Garden to Bed 1

Remove annual plants and cut down perennials. After first frost, get rid of any dead flowers and plants. Remove any leaves infected with rust or powdery mildew so the spores do not overwinter in the soil. Do not com-post plants or foliage that appear diseased. Pull annuals out by their roots; cut back perennials stems to 4 to 6 inches from the ground. I leave a few plants with interesting seed heads such as coneflowers, rudbeckia, and sunflowers to serve as winter interest in the snow and because their edible seeds provide vital winter food for birds.

Dig up tender bulbs and tubers like dahlias, cannas and caladiums. Store them over winter and replant in spring.07 Putting the Garden to Bed 3

Prepare the soil for spring. Add soil amendments like manure, compost, and bone meal because these additions will have time to break down, thus enriching the soil and become biologically active.

Mulch. Apply thick layer of mulch around perennial plants, shrubs, and trees to help protect their roots in winter.

Clean and sharpen gardening tools. Wash and remove dirt, debris, and rust on tools. Sharpen hoes, shovels, and pruners.

Now that we have put the garden to bed, we can dream and plan for the next season as we flip through seed and plant catalogs!

~Submitted by Suri Lunde