Good to Grow: Putting the garden to bed as winter draws near

Today has been the kind of autumn day you see in the movies. You know what I mean: blue skies, sun shining, sweater weather temperatures, and the trees showing off their golden colors. What a glorious fall day, but good grief I worked hard.

It’s that time of year when the garden needs put to bed as it settles down for a long winter’s nap.

First, I cleaned up what I neglected during the hot dry summer. I was not as diligent as I should have been with watering this summer. I had a few potted shrubs that did not survive my neglect, and they had to go. Some of the containers I was able to salvage, others were too heavy with roots and stems for me to empty. I was sad for about a second, then I realized it’ll be an opportunity to shop for new planters in the spring.

There were a few bushes planted in the ground that needed to be removed. They were young, and the roots were not established enough to withstand the dry weeks of the past summer.

Speaking of what’s planted in the ground, I cleaned up spent annual and trimmed back perennials. I like to leave anything with a seed pod so those seeds can fall to the ground and grow next year, and so the birds can enjoy them throughout the winter. Of course, this might lead to random perennials growing where the birds “planted” them, but that can be a fun surprise in the spring.

I had already cleared my raised beds of any vegetables before the heavy frost, but I took a quick afternoon trip to help my sister clean up tomato plants and store the stakes. They had been bitten by Jack Frost, and didn’t turn my hands green or leave that wonderful tomato vine smell. I was a bit disappointed — I love that smell.

Back at the little house on a big hill I drained the garden hoses, and stored them for winter, I have a protective cover that I use for the outside spigots. It slips on easy and can be tightened to stay secure all winter. Although I may need water outside a few more times this year, I seized the day and sunshine to complete this chore.

After clearing the containers of summer annuals and dead perennials, I needed a place to protect them from frozen water during the winter. Water freezing and expanding could easily cause the pots to crack in the cold temps. I made room in the garage and garden shed to store them throughout the winter. So many containers. This is when I realize how much I love scattering them throughout my garden.

Confession: I still have window boxes and a few (very few) pots of fall plantings on my porch. I’m not ready to go into full storage mode, that will happen after the holidays.

My outside cushions and pillows were cleaned and stored. I have a covered space where I will leave the seating intact. Despite the drop in temperatures, the pup and I spend time there year-round. I keep a blanket handy and often brave the elements to clear my mind and get a dose of fresh air. That’s the great thing about a pup — you are outside several times every day.

Thinking about evenings outside with the pup and the recent rollback of the clock, darkness comes early. With the garden trimmed and cleared, I took this time to check my outdoor lighting. Nothing fancy, but I did add a few strings of white lights to brighten the backyard in the evening. I use them for parties in the summer, but I really love having them in the winter. Something about the soft glow marking spaces and fencing warms the cool evenings.

One of my last steps will be to plant fall bulbs and add a layer of mulch. I ran out time and energy today, but I will tackle it soon.

As this glorious November day comes to an end, the pup and I wondered outside. We saw a beautiful almost full moon. This Beaver Moon is bright and fills the nighttime sky. I looked around and was pleased with the work of the day. I love the fullness of a summer garden, but do find peace in the minimalism of a garden settling in for long winter nights.