Tidy up your gardens ahead of winter

December 04, 2017

Perhaps you think the only thing commanding your attention these days is dealing with the showers of leaves. For many people it is a big, time-consuming job.

But other parts of your landscape merit attention before winter sets in.

Winter, of course, could be nice with lots of opportunity for outdoor tidying, planting and moving things. But I never count on it.

Instead, I suggest taking advantage of the next couple of weeks to finish jobs that will put your flower beds and vegetable gardens to rest until late winter.

Flower beds definitely merit attention. In some places, summer flowers such as begonias and impatiens still look good. Even so, they have to go because freezing weather will get them sooner or later. As you do this, use pruning shears to cut off the annuals at ground level, leaving the roots to decay in the soil and keeping the good soil you worked to improve last spring at planting time.

Removing them now gives more opportunity to plant flowering bulb, pansies, ornamental cabbages and snapdragons.

Perennials, of course, will stay on. Birds feast on some seed pods, but once they are depleted, cut the flowering stems back to the base of the plant. Keep the leaves, through which new growth will appear in late winter and early spring. If you have Lenten roses, look carefully around the plants for seedlings that grew this year. Some may be quite well developed by now and can be moved to a space of their own to grow into flowering plants, which takes about three years from germination. This is well worth doing.

Serious pruning of roses should not be done until early March, just ahead of the growing season. The heirloom roses, which bloom only once, should be pruned only after they bloom next spring and early summer. Knock Out roses can be trimmed and shaped up a bit now, but more serious pruning should wait until late winter.

Vegetable gardens benefit even more from an autumn cleanup. Clear out and get rid of all summer crops such as tomatoes, peppers and melons. If you leave the spent plants, they can harbor pests. Clean and put away stakes and cages used for tomatoes.

And check for winter weeds, which erupt as the weather cools. These can show up in the vegetable and flowerbeds and will not be subdued by freezing weather. Fortunately, in the light, good soil of garden beds, they are easy to pull up, roots and all.

I like leaf litter as mulch for vegetable beds, largely because it is free. Covering the earth with mulch will help keep down those winter weeds and gives a nice, finished look.



Associated Press