Ahhh October, my favorite time of the year. I love October for the traditional reasons of colorful leaves and pumpkin everything. As a gardener there is one more thing to look forward to in the fall and that’s taking the time to close off another beautiful growing season and give thanks to the fruits of your labor. Whether you’re a veggie gardener or enjoy maintaining a perennial garden bed – this is the time of year to step back, take a look at your garden, and ask yourself how you are going to prepare for winter as well as help yourself for the next growing season. Some questions you might want to consider asking yourself:
What needs to be cut back or have flowers dead-headed to encourage next years blooms? What needs to be pulled out and composted? What did you learn this year? What will you do the same, or do differently? Will you prune back things now, or leave them to be beneficial to insects and small critters over the winter? Whatever works best for you and your garden – is the best way to go about your fall clean up!
There are many routes to cleaning up your garden for the season, some prefer their garden pruned back and ready for snowfall, while others opt for leaving dead plants and leaves throughout the garden bed to give a home to beneficial insects and critters over the colder months. I like to do a little bit of both; I will use fallen leaves to insulate certain plants in my garden beds as well as clean leaves up to keep my yard looking nice. What I do is ensure I know which perennials could use the extra insulation, like rose bushes for example, and make a fluffed-up pile of mulch and leaves around the base of the plant to provide the winter protection it needs. I also decide which plants may need pruning at this time in the season such as my hydrangeas, and which plants can be cut right back and sent to the compost pile such as the day-lilies I have growing. I recommend researching your specific hydrangeas before deciding when to prune as they can be tricky.
The same goes for veggie gardens – a lot of what you do can be sent to your compost pile to add “green” nutrients or nitrogen-rich materials to your soil next spring. If you do not compost, you can let the plant simply die in the garden over the winter and opt to clean up your bed in the spring – this allows mother nature to do some of the work for you by breaking things down. Fall clean up provides you with the time to take note of what worked for you over the growing season, and what you can change or improve.
Having fun and enjoying your gardening journey is key to creating motivation to learn and try again. My most noted lesson of this year was paying attention to and learning my garden to understand just how much sunlight certain areas receive in a day – this will allow me to properly plot out my veggie garden next year for happier plants and a more valuable yield!
Beginner to expert, it is important to take the steps to close out your gardening season and help prepare your future self for the next season to come. Gardeners have a mutual respect for getting our hands dirty, but the great thing about gardeners is that everyone has their own tips and tricks that work for them… It’s all about educating yourself and practicing what gives you the most enjoyment. I hope your October is filled with enjoying your harvest, making delicious soup, and getting ready for the cozy season ahead.