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Monday, September 3, 2007

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Fall Garden Cleanup Routine!

As much as I've been trying to ignore all of you who keep saying summer is coming to an end, it's September and the reality is that it'll be freezing cold and snowy in Chicago before we know it. This morning I realized that HGTV no longer has the 7am garden show. There is no denying it - our gardening days are limited.
Prior to this year, my preparation for winter has consisted of moving my coats, hats, gloves and scarfs from the the back of my closet to the front of my closet. This year I have this damn garden to protect. The future of 26 pink hedge roses lie in my hands. The Belle of Georgia Peach Tree I planted for Mr. W must survive the winter! Okay okay, enough with the histrionics. But seriously, I need your help!

I was hoping you seasoned gardeners would share your fall cleanup and winter preparation (or whatever you call it) routine with me.


  1. I have no idea how to prepare for a white winter! All we do is move sensitive potted plants (citrus) into the garage for the winter because we do get into the mid-low 20s for a few weeks at night, and cover anything else that could be damaged with large canvas paint tarps. The snow thing has me bamboozled!

    Your post made me laugh because I too woke up yesterday expecting the gardening show to be on (which one?), but it was not. I thought it was just because it was Labor Day, but it wasn't on today when I got home and into my DVR! And I know GBTY is supposed to be on Tuesday mornings!

    Fall is approaching for sure!

    PS - A new fave of mine is Victory Garden (the newer shows with the australian/english host) on PBS...They're pretty good.

  2. The main thing I always say is going to get done is that I'm going to clean all the pots, sharpen all the tools and oil the blades/handles (as applicable)...but what really happens is that I empty out the containers of annuals, except for those I'm going to try to winter indoors, plant a gazillion bulbs, and cut down anything that's not interesting as 'winter interest'. I leave coneflower, teasel, milkweed, grasses, and other plants with interesting seedheads intact for winter interest. I don't have leaves to rake, mostly because they all blow into the next province during the autumn winds here (and I go raiding people's leaf bags that they set out for the compost pickup in the fall, so I can have some leaves here!)
    Come a hard freeze, I mulch new shrubs, perennials that might be a bit iffy, and my small conifers, heaths and heathers with evergreen boughs from the woodlot--and from the Christmas tree, because the past few years, we haven't had serious cold until January. Must be that there global warming....
    And of course wiht those few chores done, I immediately start reading all the magazines and books I didn't read during the summer...and planning for next year!

  3. I do pretty much the same thing as Jodi. Empty and clean pots. Trim the crumming looking stuff down and leave the "winter interest". The hedge roses should be OK as long as you purchased a variety that is hardy in your zone. They wouldn't need any special care. I trim mine lightly in spring.

    The peach tree I have no idea about. Possibly some sort of fencing around the trunk to protect from gnawing rodents - rabbits, mice etc.

    I usually plant more bulbs each fall - tulips, lilies, daffodils, crocus, grape hyacinth, and scilla - late October works pretty well for that here in south eastern Wisconsin. I wouldn't put bulbs in any earlier.

    This is also a good time to write down what you would like to have again next year and what you couldn't stand. Believe me, you'll forget by spring time!

    Unless you have lots of marginally hardy plants, your garden usually can take care of itself. Cleaning up the dead and dieing is the most important thing to do.

    But remember, there is still almost another growing month left. How about some pots of mums or ornamental cabbage ??

  4. I agree with what everyone has posted so far, and add that any diseased looking plant refuge should be thrown away and not composted.

    Depending on how you are, you can kind of tidy as you go, meaning clean up some of the vegetable garden now that is no longer producing, empty pots as they fade out, etc. Or you can wait until we've had the first killing frost and then clean up everything more or less at once. Because once there's been a killing frost it is pretty much over, over, over. Put the garden tools away after the clean up and bring out the snow shovels and gardening books at that time. Winter is for resting and dreaming/planning for next season.

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  5. You DO have a garden, not a yard! I saw your comment over at Heather's! Anyway, in addition to the fall chores above, I put away the statuary and turn the birdbath top upside down so it catches the snow and looks like a giant mushroom. I will spread compost on the lawn and perennial beds if time allows as there is always too much to do in the spring. I prune back the roses in late fall so they don't 'whip' around and one thing I didn't do one year was place some tree around the base of the fruit trees so the voles don't eat the bark and girdle them. Aluminum foil tied tight around the base will work just as well so protect the peach!

  6. That should read 'tree guards' which you can purchase at the garden center.

  7. I so miss the snow.. I haven't had it for going on 9 years.. i love to ski, but am rusty and afraid I might kill myself doing it.. Plants are still going strong here.

  8. I don't know anything that hasn't already been said. But here is one thing different.

    The only things I do is keep the leaves off the grass and pull up any annuals when they are killed by the frost. I leave the dead perenials for spring. My mother says that the old folage will help protect the plants during the winter. Make some sense. I don't do anything to the roses but in your area you might want to mulch them.

  9. Gina, I was crusing around looking for gardening workshops in my area when I found this:
    The best detailed instructions for garden winter prep that I have seen. It's specific to CT, but should give you the basic facts. I'm glad I found it because I had the same questions that you did.

  10. Seasoned gardener friend here - more seasons than you've been on the planet !

    The Fall chore that most folks neglect is watering ; water deeply , but not frequently, right up until the ground freezes - especially for newly planted trees and shrubs. A 2 inch layer of mulch around newly planted trees and shrubs will help prevent the freeze/thaw cycle from uprooting your plants.

    I pull up dead annuals and add them to the compost pile. I cut back any dead foilage from perennials and leave those with interesting seed pods or stems ( cone flowers, sedum, etc.

    And lastly, I spread a layer of cotton burr compost and manure over my entire garden so that when Spring arrives all the plants have the nutrients they need to get growing. This would be especially good for your Georgia Peach tree as they love this fertilizer the best.

    If you have sensitive broadleaf evergreens ( Big leaf rhododendron, pieris japonica or hollies ) you can give them winter protection by spraying them with Wiltpruf, an antidessicant that encases them in a waxy coating that melts in warm weather.

    Now's the time to select and plant any Spring blooming bulbs -daffodils, tulips, alliums, etc. Better mark them if you do or you'll accidentally dig them up.

    Then pray for a good snow cover once winter does set in because it helps protect the plants.

  11. routine? what a good idea! need less to say, I don't have one. I just wished summer would last longer, and fall, too!

  12. Kate - I've been DVR'ing Victory Garden! I love it, too.

    Jodi, Alyssa, Heather, Carol, Carolyn, Layanee, DF and KC, thanks so much for all the information! I really really appreciate you taking the time...

    mumm - HA!