Cleaning Up the Fall Garden

The rains came, and now the fall garden has transformed into a muddy mess. It’s a tricky time of year in the garden. Some plants are long dead, having seen their end at the first sight of the first frost. Others are hanging on for dear life, like my roses who are managing to push out some gorgeous blooms in spite of leaves that look like they’ve had it. And then there are the troopers: the winter kale, greens, and other odds and ends that seem to in fact thrive after the frosts.

fall gardenIt’s only going to get wetter and muddier. It leaves me asking myself where to put in my energy with cleanup, and where to just let muddy plants lie (as they say). On dry days I sneak into the garden and tiptoe around my flowers, and on rainy days I try to stay away and not disturb the fragile soil, so susceptible to compaction when wet.

I’ve adopted the below strategy to clean up and prepare the garden for spring, while letting it take its natural course in some areas. What strategies do you all out there rely upon in fall?

Cover Bare Areas

Where there’s bare soil, there will be mud, followed by germinating weeds, followed by massive winter weeds that become massive spring weeds that become the bane of my existence. So I’m really focusing on covering these areas – small or large – with landscape fabric or mulch.

Finish the ‘Summer Weeding’

I let my field get particularly crazy with weeds this summer, and I’m paying for it now while I uncover perennials like peonies and columbine that need to start thinking about their next season of growth. Now’s the time to gently rip these guys out of the ground.

Cut Some Dead Growth Back, and Leave Some!

wes-hicks-453773I always thought that come fall you should remove all spent debris you can find. But this article reminded me that there are plenty of animals and critters that need food this winter, and why not let them hang out in your garden? I now pick and choose what to cut back and what to leave ’til spring.

Mulch Perennials

Rains can be heavy, and I want to prevent erosion and compaction as much as possible. That’s why I rely on a combination of rice straw and wood chips to mulch the ground all around my plants. As these decay a bit with the rain, you’re inviting all sorts of microbiological activity to occur.

Prep Some Beds For Fall

fall gardenAs I wrote about in the last post, this year I’ve really focused on making life easier for myself come spring. I’m normally waiting with baited breath for the spring soil to dry out in order to get some plants in the ground. But not this year! By amending, cultivating and then covering beds right now, it’ll be smooth sailing come spring.

And that’s about it! I would love to hear how you all tackle your gardens this time of year. Happy Holidays!