The growing season is nearing its end, even for those of us living in the warm Southwest. As your plants prepare for winter, so should you. In between the holiday madness, do your best to carve out a little time for the garden. Here’s a checklist of six basic tasks:
Say Good-Bye to Annuals – I know this will hurt to hear, but they are called annuals for a reason. When cold weather hits they die. Pull up the plants, roots and all, and shake off the soil before adding them to the compost heap. While you’re doing that, make a note of which ones grew the best so you can remember to buy more next spring.
Tidy Perennials – They may be going dormant but they will benefit from a little TLC. Trim down tender foliage that will die when frost hits. My canna lilies become a gooey mess at the first sign of freezing. The garden always looks better once I have that cleared away.
Some Last-Minute Mulching – If you didn’t get to it yet, there’s still time for some mulching. Mulching reduces water loss, helps prevent erosion during heavy storms, inhibits germination of weed seeds in spring, and feeds the roots during the winter. Add mulch round the base to preserve the root crown. My scented geraniums and pineapple sage benefit from this treatment.
Head for Cover – Somewhere in Canada is a cold front heading your way. Bring container grown tender plants inside to a cool place with light. Many people use their garage, which is fine for plants with nothing live above ground. But for plants with green leaves, plan to provide light from a nearby window or a grow lamp. Got something in the ground that needs cover? Have on hand some burlap, landscape fabric, or even an old blanket to wrap them up before a cold front hits.
Prepare for the Big Freeze – Chances are you will deal with at least one period of below-freezing temperatures. Drain water from water features and wipe them down with vinegar to discourage algae and fungus. Also drain hoses and bring them inside if you won’t be using them.
Another Last-Minute Opportunity – Most bulbs are planted in October. That’s for the organized gardener. If you’re like me, this is the time when I realize it’s now or never when planting bulbs. This is also the time that nurseries put bulbs on sale. What’s available may be picked over but plant them now and they will make up for lost time as the slowly grow through the winter to prepare for spring.