GARDEN WORKS – Ready for Wintertime! Tips and tricks as the clock ticks

Emily Catesby Emily Cates

Few times of the year are as satisfying to me as autumn. With crates full of goodies like garlic, onions, squash, carrots and potatoes- and canning jars brimming with the rewards of successful harvests, I feel surrounded with abundance, always thankful.

After planting the garlic and putting the garden to bed, the frost finally settles into the ground, bringing this season to an end. However, for the adventurous and practical minded gardener, there is still work to be done.

If you are especially motivated and would like to keep working, here are a few suggestions. Let’s look at moving perennials, shrubs, vines, and trees – and also tips for making the garden plot easy to work with come springtime.

There’s a good window of opportunity to take advantage of between the times where plants have gone dormant and when the ground freezes for good this year. Usually this happens for a few weeks in our area starting late October/early November. So, if you have a tree you’d like planted, a perennial divided, a shrub moved, a grapevine pruned, then get to it!

Unlike springtime plantings of trees – for example – which must be well-watered throughout their first season, fall plantings only need thorough waterings up until the freeze. A nice thick mulch extended to the drip line but pulled away several inches away from the trunk is beneficial. (My trees seem to enjoy being mulched with aged debris left over from processing firewood, and they look pretty, too.)

Speaking of mulch, here’s a little time saving trick to working the garden next spring: mulch the heck out of it! (Wondering what to use for mulch? Think cardboard covered with old hay, leaves, straw, or compost. Tarps, old blankets, rugs, garden fabric, and sheets of plastic can do the job too.) Then, in the springtime, the mulch is moved and the garden planted with ease.

What I like to do is clean the garden beds thoroughly from crop residues and weeds – making sure to get any roots and rhizomes – and till it up with a spading fork, adding soil amendments as desired. Then I pile on the mulch, imagining it to be a warm, fluffy comforter for the garden to snuggle. Depending on my mood, I might even sing it a lullaby.

At this point, depending on how badly I overworked in the growing season, I will either take a needed hiatus, or (foolishly) press on to other outdoor activities such as firewood. Most likely it’s the latter scenario, with all the work from the growing season being the prelude, conditioning and leading up to the hard work of the harvest of the woods.

For all the time and effort, though, it sure feels good to have food and a warm home — along with a free “gym membership.”


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