Sunday, October 25, 2020

Putting the Garden to Bed

 New gardeners have joined us this year as Covid 19 has changed our lifestyles and kept us at home much more. 

We've been asked by several organizations to provide a virtual meeting about cleaning up the garden and putting it to bed.  Fall is the single best time to promote good gardening habits. Start with simple observations. What did well this year, and what were some of the challenges? My phone records much of that for me.  For example, my tomato plants were perfect this year. When I went to harvest the tomatoes, I was surprised to see spots on the fruit. It turned out that I had a disease called anthracnose. As I researched the cause, I realized I had planted the transplants in soil from last year (in pots). That will not happen again. I will get rid of the soil, disinfect the pots, and be more successful next year. 

Here is a to-do list in the garden this fall. 

Late fall color ar Longwood Gardens

Putting the Garden to Bed and other Fall Chores

·         Observe, take pictures, keep a garden diary.

·         Remove dead branches from trees and shrubs.

·         Clean up leaf litter around diseased plants.

·         Is the right plant in the right place? What may have changed?

·         Don’t be too neat. Leave spaces for turtles, and native beneficial insects like mason bees.


The Lawn

John is adding Leafgro to add organic matter for a seedbed

·         Seed the lawn now. Fill barespots or redo entire areas that were struggling.

·         Feed with a fall lawn food, high in the nutrients that lawns are looking for this time of year. 

·         Aerate to create air spaces in compressed soil.

·         Mow high and let it lie. Most of the grasses we currently use are best at about 3".


The Perennial and Annual Gardens


A fall perennial garden

·         Move, divide, cut-back. Read The Well-Tended Perennial Garden for great tips.

·         Plant perennials from containers into the garden.

·         Use shredded leaves as mulch.

·         Don’t cut back woody or evergreen perennials.

·         Spray deer deterrent.

·         Clean up leaf litter around diseased plants.

·         To mulch or not to mulch…reseeding annuals, Ghost ferns, Black-eyed Susans.

·         Leave seed heads up or  collect seed for next spring.

·         Remove summer blooming bulbs.

Dahlias, Cannas and other summer flowering bulbs should be dug up andh stored over winter

·         Plant bulbs…deep. Use Bobbex as a bulb dip for protection against rodents. Consider many of the deer resistant bulbs. Plant them around tulips and other deer food.

·         Use pansies or violas as cover over the bulbs. 

 Trees and Shrubs

·         Plant while air is cool and soil is warm.

·         Continue to water newly planted trees  and evergreens as needed.

·         Consider an anti-dessicant for broad-leaved evergreens; use for cut greens at holiday time too.

·         Leaf drop is normal as is needle drop in some evergreens.

·         Prune as needed. Wait until March for butterfly bushes, and grasses. Hydrangeas that grow on old or new wood can be cut-back anytime. Do not over prune those hydrangeas that bloom on old wood.

·         Used decayed compost in beds and around trees. Leave a trunk flare. Avoid mulch or compost too close to the trunk of trees where voles may gnaw on bark.  Stamp down snow around trees as well.

·         Remove snow load from bushes, especially under the eaves of rooflines. Use a broom or blower.

·         Spray Deer Stopper to prevent rutting on bark of trees.

Deer Stopper comes in a spray as well. I like the ribbon around the garden or a group of trees. Use it 30" high for best results. 

·         Plant for wildlife…berried treasure like dogwoods, calicarpa and many hollies are sought after. 

Feed the birds. Trees and shrubs provide shelter for our feathered friends. 


·         Identify the evergreens and others to prune later for decorating for the holidays

Vegetable Gardens

Extend the growing season by adding Harvest Guard over the raised bed hoops

If you have knowldge and skills to share, reach out to a community garden

·         Harvest.

·         Clean out and do not compost diseased plants.

·         Plant radishes and carrots to improve soil drainage in spring.

·         Plant a cover crop of winter rye or clover as green manure.

·         Add organic matter, lime and other soil additives now. Test the soil for pH.

Though we are not offering soil testing at this time, we do sell DIY kits


·         Remove old soil from containers; clean and store pots.

·         Cut back, dry and preserve herbs.

·         Take photos, re-design garden to foster crop rotation.

·         Mulch strawberries and other berries. Cut-back raspberry canes.

·         Okay to add ash from fireplaces to the compost pile.

·         Protect figs.

·         Prune stone fruits…peaches, plums.

Tools, house, etc.

·         Clean and sharpen pruners.

  •      Sand wooden long-handled tools. Rub with linseed oil.  

·         Caulk around house to prevent rodents, stink bugs, lady bugs

·         Feed the birds; store birs seed and pet foods in rodent-proof containers

·         Use Mouse Magic around mowers, grills, covered furniture….



Houseplants add fresh air inside the home

·         Move houseplants inside.

·         Use horticultural oil, soap or systemic insecticide to treat any insects.

·         Fertilize one more time, then hold off until March.

·         Give the plants a shower.

·         Consider a humidifier.

·         Turn them a quarter a week to keep growth even. 

Add grow lights if needed.


·         Check leaves for sticky-ness; treat accordingly.

·         Keep Christmas Cacti cool.

·         Pot up paperwhites and Amaryllis for Christmas gifts.

·         Poinsettia, Cyclamen, Violets, Kalanchoe, and orchids offer beautiful color indoors.

·         Force bulbs. Use the beverage fridge to cool bulbs for about 12 weeks. Pot them amd put them in the refriferator. 

There is always something to do in the garden, but do take the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Working on these tasks now will save time in the spring when we'll all be ready to get started again. 

Enjoy and let us know if we can help.  





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