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Right now, I’m sure you are probably feeling the same way I am: What the heck happened to summer? As I get older, it feels like every season passes more quickly than the one before. Wasn’t it just May? How can it possibly be September already? And to make matters worse, the gardening season has come just about full circle.
September, for me, always brings the knowledge that this may be the last batch of sweet corn I’ll get, the last bouquet of fresh-cut garden posies for my dining room table, or the last quart of spaghetti sauce I’ll be able to put up for the winter.
At my house, autumn seems to be the time for my annual “spring cleaning” chores, both indoors and out. A bit backwards, I know, but I feel good about nestling in for the winter knowing that my house is in order, my garden has been put to bed appropriately, the junk in the garage is sort of organized, and my son’s hand-me-downs have been passed along to another growing boy. Yes, it’s work, but there is something quite satisfying, and perhaps a bit ancestral, to be prepared for the winter. I know we have another good month or so to enjoy the garden’s beauty, but there are lots of things I’m doing right now to help that garden of mine come to an official close when the time comes.
1. Garden Postmortem
I always start September by taking stock of garden victories and failures. I know by this point in the season what worked perfectly and what was a complete and utter letdown.
This year, my new potato bins worked great, but the new hydrangea I bought was a flop. The Liquid Fence deer repellant worked like a charm, but the watermelons stunk. My new watering nozzle has become a favorite tool, but the begonias I planted this spring are deader than a doornail. Tough luck is in every garden, every season—I just keep telling myself its all part of the charm of gardening.
2. Prepare the For the Cold
After I write all these little positives and negatives in my garden journal, I get to my bedtime chores. I start by dividing my favorite perennials. The babies get new homes, either someplace else in my garden or in the garden of a good friend. I want to make sure these treasured varieties thrive and a good separation every three or four years does them good.
I remove any ground covers that have invaded areas where they aren’t wanted. I put aluminum foil scarves around the trunks of my small fruit trees to deter male deer from rubbing them. I plant bulbs. I pull out tattered annuals. I dress up my containers with the fall finery of flowering kale and pansies, and I look forward to the rush of colored leaves about to come.
3. Mulch the Beds
Autumn in the garden is really a lovely time. The heat of summer no longer keeps us out of the soil, and the wheelbarrow can come back out of the shed for those heavy duty chores, like mulching.
I love to mulch in the fall. I dress my perennial beds with 1 to 2 inches of compost mixed with leaf mold or mushroom soil, and I dump well-rotted horse manure from the neighbor’s farm into the vegetable garden, where it can begin to breakdown and feed my soil for next spring.
I also buy discounted bags of shredded hardwood bark mulch each autumn to spread around my trees and shrubs. The bags come from a local nursery that doesn’t like to store them through the winter.
All this preparation for the winter is also preparation for next spring. What I do now does not have to be done then. I always feel hurried in the spring, but for whatever reason, the autumn is a very peaceful and centering time for me. Bring it on.
Get more help preparing your farm for winter:
- 6 Winter Ground Covers You Never Thought to Grow
- Sprout a Winter Vegetable Garden Indoors
- 6 Winter Tips for Your Flock
- Calculate Winter Forage Needs
- 22 Foods You Can Store In Root Cellars