With fall in our midst and in full swing in many parts of the world, it is time to get the gardens cleaned up before the snow is upon us.
People all too often leave the garden cleanup until spring, but fall is the ideal time. Not only is it easier to pick up the stalks and spent plants but the risk of soil borne diseases is reduced significantly. It may seem overwhelming when you look at your garden space, but by tackling one area at a time you can have it done in no time at all.
Your garden cleanup should also consist of your lawn and flower pots. Not only will it save time in the spring, it will also be easier on your planters and equipment when all is put away before the cold weather sets in.
If you have a compost pile, start by dumping the soil from your planters into it. If you don’t have one, now is a good time to start one. By adding your garden waste to a compost pile, you will have some friable soil by springtime. A good practice to get into is to alternately layer your browns and greens.
What do I mean by browns and greens? Browns are dead leaves, straw, dried plant stalks and used soil. Greens are weeds (that haven’t gone to seed – these need to be incinerated) and grass clippings. Other items that may be added to a compost pile are egg shells, coffee grounds and vegetable peels. Things you do not want to add to your compost are animal feces (for obvious reasons), dairy products, meat products or oil/fat of any sort. Aside from the animal feces, the other items attract anmals and do not break down as well.
Now that you have been given a very basic lesson in composting, let’s get back to the cleanup. To make it easier for the plant matter to break down over the winter, you may run your lawn mower over the waste with your bag attached. (Larger pieces, such as sunflower and corn stalks, may have to be chopped up first.) This will make it easier to get the bits and pieces from your garden edge to the compost pile. Alternate the garden waste with grass clippings (now is a good time to give your lawn its final cut). By mixing the browns and greens, you will have a more viable pile. Too many greens and your pile will become soggy; too many browns and it will be dry. Adding in used soil from your planters will help speed the process along as well. A good sign that your compost pile is “cooking” during the winter is there will be steam rising from it. (Adding to the pile during the winter will make it even better, and cut down on your contribution to the landfill.)
After you have cleaned up the garden, mowed the lawn and dumped your planters, it is time to roto-till your garden. If you are using garden beds, using a hand operated garden claw works well. If you have an existing compost pile, now is the time to add some fresh compost to your garden. It will break down over the winter, and give your spring planting a boost.
For those with solar lights and other ornaments, now is the time to put them into storage as well. Snow and ice can be damaging to the finish on garden decor. When storing your solar lights, be sure to remove the batteries and keep them in a container inside your house or garage. This will extend the life of both the batteries and your lights.
Putting your patio furniture into storage is also recommended, especially if it consists of cushions. Winter is hard on fabric and stuffing, and it also gives rodents more opportunity to make a comfortable home inside when the furniture isn’t being used.
Wash all planters and garden tools in a mild bleach solution. This will disinfect them so there are no spores or diseases carried over to the next planting season. By taking precautions now, your next year could yield you a bumper crop.
Do some fall maintenance on your lawn and garden equipment, such as blade sharpening and oil changes. By performing the maintenance now, you will be ready for the first cut in spring.
By taking the time in the fall to do cleanup and maintenance, you will be able to concentrate on the planting when spring arrives. Which is also one of the best times to plant a lawn and have fastest growing grass, learn why here.