Friday, October 28, 2011

Fall Garden Clean Up and Pumpkin Patches

The bright orange of the pumpkins which remain in the garden are a sharp contrast to the browned stems and overcast sky above and below.  Fall is here and it's decision time.  Clip back or leave nature alone to do her work?  Rake the beds clean or allow the leaves to stay?  Surprisingly less is more in when the leaves turn gold.  Wooded areas are the best example.  That colorful carpet is mostly gone once the snow recedes.  Those piles of leaves at the curb are the key to fertile soil. 

In a perfect gardening world, we'd have the time and equipment to finely shred leaves and garden clippings then gently sprinkle them around the base of precisely clipped back plants.  But lives and jobs and a little bit of fall fun take precedence--and soon it's time to wrap the holiday gifts.

Still, in a quick and easy green gardening world, it is possible to develop a system that is eighty percent nature and twenty percent gardener. Nature is meant to do the work--so let her.

Leave a nice layer of leaves on flower beds and at the base of shrubs as a natural mulch. 

Most annuals can stay.  They'll disintegrate beneath the winter blanket of snow. Impatiens, for example will shrivel up and disappear after a few weeks of cold. What's left can be swept out by hand in early spring.  The decaying root system will naturally integrate the soil with valuable nutrients, so leave them in place. Pick a spot in the yard, and start a compost of potted plants and large scale clippings.  Consider the neighbor's line of sight when chosing a location.  The back of the garage may be out of sight for you, but a direct hit from the Addams family room. 

Clip the top third from sturdy stemmed perennials like phlox and shasta daisies.  The remaining stems will collect snow and assist in the insulation of roots from the freeze and thaw of winter. For winter interest keep big headed plants like sedum and hydrangea intact.  Do not ever cut back early spring blooming or wooded plants and shrubs like rhododendron, hydrangea, butterfly bush or lilac in the fall. These should be trimmed, if needed, right after bloom in the spring. 

Grasses can be left until the spring.  They look spectacular after a snowfall.

Take the basket from the mower and mulch leaves into the lawn.

Reduce the pile at the curb and increase the energy in your garden.  Nice balance.

Now, head for the pumpkin patch.