The arrival of November means that gardening season is truly over for most of our area. However, there are a few things you’ll still need to do in order to prepare for winter. Avoiding these fall gardening mistakes can save you a lot of time and possibly heartache come spring.
Keep an eye on the weeds. Just because your annuals are finished, your roses are withering and your shrubs and trees have begun to go dormant, somehow the weeds don’t always follow the same path. Nestled among the desirable plants, they seem to persist, no matter what the weather. I know in my yard, grass in particular, invades my irises. Now is a great time to get in and clean it out as the irises have begun to die back and it’s easy to get in and among them and pull the stubborn grass. I know that if I pull the grass roots and all now, it will save me a lot of time and grief come spring. Since weeds compete for whatever moisture is available through the winter, giving your garden a good cleaning now, will not only tidy it up, but also make available to your desirable plants whatever moisture we get this winter. Avoiding the mistake of ignoring the weeds now is one you’ll thank me for come spring.
While you’re cleaning out the weeds, take some time to rake leaves and clean up other debris or trash that has blown in and possibly congregated around your shrubs and any perennials you’ve left standing. Don’t make the mistake of letting the debris lay because many times undesirable pests and disease overwinter here.
Consider mulching your leaves and using them in your garden or adding them to your compost pile which are both excellent ways to get rid of an overabundance of leaves. Mother Nature has just given you a wonderful gift and can be especially beneficial when used to protect your rose bushes, for example, through the winter. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring your roses and other tender shrubs. Protect them by covering the crown with mulch several inches thick. Remove this mid-March once the sun begins to strengthen.
I can’t say enough about remembering to water through the winter months, especially for newly planted perennials, trees, and shrubs. As a general rule of thumb, water once a month from October through March. Watering on the holidays- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Martin Luther King Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter is an easy way to remember. Choose a warm day and give your plants a good, long drink during the middle of the day. It is critical you keep the roots moist which is what they need in order to survive the winter. If you have experienced the loss of a plant through winterkill, you know that making this mistake can be fatal.
Finally, if you are planning on having a live Christmas tree, decide where you are going to plant it and dig that hole now while the ground is still workable. Be sure to cover it over with a tarp or put an upside down five gallon bucket in the hole to prevent critters and small children from accidentally falling in. If you wait until after the holidays, the ground will most likely be frozen and that chore will be much more difficult. Since live Christmas trees are only meant to be indoors for a few days, making this mistake may mean that you’ll be outside in a snowstorm trying to deal with digging that hole!
Personally, I love being in the garden this time of the year because it no longer seems as overwhelming as it does during the spring and summer months when all the chores are stacked up and there don’t seem to be enough hours in a day. Avoid these common mistakes for a happy, healthy garden come spring!