O wild west wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red
Pestilence stricken multitudes.
From “Ode to the West Wind” By Percy Bysshe ShelleyThe blustery days of Fall are always a favorite. They are gentle reminders to us that the cold, wet, howling winter is around the corner. It wakes us up out of our autumnal slumber and beckons us to clean out our garden in preparation for it’s winter sleep. Last weekend’s strong west winds scattered multi-colored leaves all over our lawns and neighborhoods. This blanket of soft, crunchy, gloriously hued goodness is every bit as thrilling as that other much anticipated event, the first snowfall. But for now let’s think about what the Garden needs from us. Just like a good mother would put her child to bed, we as good gardeners should do the same. So, below we would like to offer some important points to remember as you tuck your veggie garden into bed for winter.
- Clean up all the dead dying vegetation. Don’t let anything rot in place. Even one tomato that rots in place can spread disease.
- Only compost healthy plant material. Cool weather crops tend to be healthier, whereas many warm weather vegetable vines and waste can harbor disease (especially tomato vines).
- If you are overwintering vegetables, clean up around their base. Cut any leaves or stems that are touching the soil. This will prevent slugs and other critters from finding their way on to your winter veggies.
- In the orchard remove all leaves and wasted fruit. These can harbor diseases like codling moth, apple maggot and a whole host of other evils.
- Pull those weeds one last time. This will give you a headstart in spring when other weeds will be demanding your attention.
- Mulch, Mulch, Mulch.
- Oh, and by the way, did we mention that you should mulch? You may want to start with a suppresion layer if you have a lot of weed problems. A suppression layer would be cardboard, newspaper or leaves. Next (or first if you didn’t do suppression layer) is to add organic material. Our favorite is manure (but not from horses). You could also use leaves or your own homemade compost. Use what’s available and as close as you can get it to the source. You want to know what you are putting on your garden. Why? Because basically you will be eating it in next years veggies!
- Have fun! Enjoy this season that we are offered as a time to wind down, and assess this year’s successes and failures. And of course, as only gardeners can understand, begin to dream about… next year’s garden!