Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cleaning out the Garden

With the last of the veggies brought in (except for those carrots that we like to ignore), it's time to face the inevitable . . . cleaning out the dead plants.  Ironically I enjoy this job during the summer.  There seems nothing quite so satisfying as ripping out green bean vines.  This is, of course, only after I've frozen umpteen quart bags of the little buggers and if someone so much as mentions the word "bean," my head may split open. 

But now we must clean up the garden in earnest.  Dead plants, cages, poles, it all needs to be dealt with.  Here are a few things to consider when your garden looks like mine.

1. Some things can be left in the garden.  Any plants that have seeds or berries can be left as bird food for the winter months.  Sunflowers, purple coneflowers and black-eyed susans are great ones to ignore for a good cause.

2. Leave some hiding spots.  Some spiders and beetles rely on dead ground cover in which to winter over. Give them a hand this winter and they'll be great additions to the kids' bug collection next Spring!

3. Clean out the blight.  Be sure to remove all plants that had blight or decay over the growing months.  Spores can survive over the winter only to rear their ugly heads again next year.

4. Remove the infrastructure.  All tomato cages and bean poles should also be removed.  If you're feeling really tidy, these may be wiped down with a bleach and water solution to kill any disease.

5. Cover the garden with organic matter.  Use the grass clippings from that blessed last lawn mowing, add dry leaves, mix in kitchen compost, sweet talk your local farmer into giving you some manure and spread it on thick!  Everything will naturally break down under the snow and be ready to till next spring.

Old caned-seat chairs make great peony cages!
6. Perennials can be divided now.  Peonys, irises, daylilies and hostas that have outgrown their allotted space can safely be split and will fill out nicely next year. 

7. Test your soil.  If your veggies and flowers left you less than impressed this year, now is a perfect time to test your soil and make adjustments.

8.  Plan for next year. Take notes and draw pictures to help with next year's layout.  Leave markers if you've added new plants that may be mistaken for weeds.  Each Spring I weed out numerous flowers in my over-zealous attempt to start the year out weed-free!  Plant bulbs now and make sure those are noted as well.

The cool weather always inspires me to button up the outdoor projects and return indoors for an extra cup of coffee.  Let the rototiller rest.  Leave the rakes and hoes collect dust.  And watch the mailbox in anticipation of the bright seed catalogs that'll be here by January!


  1. I've been staring out the window at mine for some time now, but keep putting it off. It always seems so final. Summer is over. We put the storm windows on our house last weekend, so I guess summer is over whether I like it or not. Better get to the garden before the snow flies!

    ♥ Rebecca Jean
    Midnight Maniac

  2. Same goes for here! I was just commenting how I need to get out and clean my garden out this morning. I have read that adding cornmeal to the soil will help deter blight spores as well. I think I may try this next spring. Also I am in some serious denial about winter- I breezed out of the house in a dress and hoodie this morning. A bit frosty!