When you’re done harvesting the bounty your garden has to offer this year and everything begins to wither away, it’s hard to feel motivated to get back in the garden to get everything cleaned up before the snow comes. But the end-of-season cleanup and maintenance is an important phase in your garden, because what you do now can either make or break your gardening experience when spring comes back around!
You’ll want to get ahead of the cooler temperatures by working a few weeks before you expect the first freeze.
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Here are some simple things you can do to put your garden to bed for the year.
- Collect and dry seeds to save for next year. Here is a great article from Organic Gardening on what seeds you can save to plant next year, and how to do it.
- Gather herbs and flowers for drying. Tie the stems into small bundles with twine or string and hang them upside down in a warm, dry, airy place out of the sun. Be sure to make small, loose bundles and allow for good air circulation around each bunch.
- After a killing frost, pull up dead annuals and put them on the compost pile. Discard in the trash any that have fungal disease. This part hurts, but they aren’t coming back and need to go eventually!
- Cut back your perennials. Begin by cutting back only the dead and diseased parts, disposing of them separately (not in your compost!). After the first frost, cut back additional dead branches or foliage.
- Clean up overgrown areas. This will prevent stubborn, weedy shrubs from moving in, as well as eliminate a potential animal nesting area.
- Empty and clean all containers, cages, and garden ornaments to keep them from cracking during the winter and store them upside down.
- Detach and drain garden hoses. On a mild day, run your garden hose up over a railing or over the shed to remove all the water, then roll it up and store in a dry place.
- Clean, sharpen, and oil all of your tools. (Click here to read my post from this spring on how to clean your garden tools!) This will improve their lifespan and save you a ton of work when spring comes!
- Consider performing a soil test, usually available for a small fee from your local Cooperative Extension office. Your test results will usually come with recommendations for amendments, which should be applied as soon as possible. Some amendments take a few months to start working, so applying them now will ensure your soil is primed and ready to perform in the spring. Find your nearest extension office by clicking here.
- Weed your beds. I know that we’re all MORE than sick of weeding at this point, but weeding your beds now will make it harder for them to grow back, and you’ll be very happy you did once spring rolls around.
- Plant garlic for overwintering. The best time to put garlic in the ground is when the temperatures have dropped considerably, but before the ground freezes. This allows time for the garlic to form roots in the soil, but doesn’t allow for above-ground foliage to form. This process will give you beautiful heads of garlic next summer!
- Mulch your beds with leaves. Leaves make extremely good mulch, helping protect your soil from erosion and compaction, while also breaking down to provide nutrients. Be sure to chop or shred leaves before using them as mulch. Whole leaves can form a mat that water can’t penetrate.
- Review your garden performance and make notes for next year. If you think your peppers would have done better with more sun, or you wish you would have planted more or different varieties of tomatoes, write those things down somewhere. Better to take the time to write it down now than find yourself struggling to remember any of it in the spring!
- Finally…don’t forget the birds! Clean out your bird feeders and bird baths. As it turns cooler, food sources for birds become scarce. Refill your feeders and attract an array of birds to your yard.
By taking the time to put your garden to bed properly this fall, you’ll be setting yourself up for success in the spring, and your garden will just get better and easier to care for every year!