End of season is an important time of year for gardeners, although it might be one that’s sometimes overlooked.
But as many of us get more involved, increase the size of our gardens and really become immersed in the lifestyle, over-wintering becomes a very necessary step to maintain plot vitality, especially considering the nutrient depletion caused by this summer’s climate.
Rain causes a wash-off and leaching of most things soil needs for its nourishment and the steps you take at end of season, in a very real sense, are the first steps of next year’s preparations. After last harvest and if you’re not going to plant a fall crop,
• Clean up thoroughly – discard into trash bags any diseased, mottled plants; remove old disease-free vegetation to compost pile; discard into trash bags any discolored, “ashy” mulch (it could have fungus); dump potted vegetable plants, disease-free into compost pile, diseased into trash bags.
• Clean garden tools - remove dirt (brush or steel wool), put on light coat of oil (short spray of WD40 and wipe dry) to prevent rust, store hanging in dry area.
• Wash all power equipment, check undersides of trimmers for debris, and clear out.
• Disconnect and drain water from hoses, roll out to dry; roll up tidy and hang in dry area.
• Disconnect/remove rain barrel from downspout extension; empty; wash and remove any algae completely; drain and store in cool, dry area
• Use up or remove all gasoline from power equipment; discard old, unused gas (never store old gas or use in power equipment); remove battery from any battery powered equipment, store over winter according to manufacturer’s instructions; remove spark plugs from mower and/or store according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Once you’ve cleaned up properly, you can begin preparing your beds for next year by either
• Or, adding organic matter (compost) to soil and tilling it into a depth of 6”; rake roughly to get rid of hills or holes in soil; layer with mulch of newspaper strips, straw or shredded leaves; cover with landscape fabric to prevent weed germination.
Flower beds can be tended at this time too.
• Discard any spent annuals, disease-free into compost pile, diseased into trash bags.
• Deadhead perennial shrubs according to variety; example, hydrangea can be pruned extensively, azaleas only dying or dead branches/leaves and hold major pruning until spring.
• Remove and discard old mulch
• Add layer of compost as mulch until first frost
• After first frost, lay heavy layer of mulch at least 2” thick to prevent soil thaw; apply slow release fertilizer under mulch for perennial shrubs, water thoroughly