Good to Grow: Tucking the garden in for a long winter nap

Maybe it is because I’m a little tired, maybe it is because of the doe who bedded down under the back tree all afternoon as I bustled about, but I have been thinking about naps and that cozy feeling the early evening darkness brings.

The sweet doe resting in the back reminded me that we literally call these plots of cultivated ground garden beds — and now is the time to ready them for winter.

Here at the little house on a big hill, we have not had frost yet, but I know it is coming soon. I have begun moving indoor/outdoor plants to sunny spots around the house.

I have a confession: I donated an overstuffed chair that sat near the sunniest window in my family room — just so I will have room for a few large, potted trees. OK, maybe that is not the only reason I donated the chair, but it did open up the perfect indoor space for more plants.

Outside I have been transitioning my containers to decorative cabbage, kale and mums. These plants can withstand the cooler temps and by adding a few pumpkins, will keep the house looking festive through the fall season.

Some plants and herbs can be overwintered indoors (you may remember my neighbor kept geraniums healthy all last winter), but for many, it is time to say goodbye. Do it now, before they are bitten by Jack Frost and look sad and frozen.

As I remove the annuals, I move the containers to the garage or garden shed. Think about emptying the soil into an existing garden bed or storing it for next year. Clean the empty pots, maybe even spritzing them with bleach to kill any lingering insects or disease.

With containers stored, take a look around at what needs to be harvested in your vegetable and herb gardens. Herbs can be dried; the last of the veggies can be shared with neighbors or put up (garden talk for canned, frozen or stored) for winter meals. If you haven’t planted garlic, shallots or even spinach seeds, do it now before the ground freezes.

When it comes to flower beds, you can trim back many of the perennials.

Thinking about the birds, leave your coneflowers and black-eyed Susans for them to enjoy over the winter. Wait and trim butterfly bushes in the very early spring — the branches will create interest in your winter garden.

Now is the time to weed and trim any unwanted vines or brush. Be sure to discard the trimmings. You do not want to create a place for unwanted animals to live through the winter.

Fall is a good time to amend your soil. Adding in compost or manure now will give it time to absorb into the ground. As the ground freezes, expanding and contracting through the winter, the nutrients will automatically be worked into the soil.

I like adding mulch in the fall. Yes, it creates a tidy look and will break down, enriching the soil, but selfishly it helps prevent the pup from tracking mud through the house.

Don’t forget about your tools. Store stakes, cages and even your garden gnome (haha) away from elements. Clean your tools and note if clippers, pruners, shovels or hoes need sharpening. Consider giving them a little spray of oil to prevent any winter rust.

I am always a bit sad when clearing the beds, but the next day when I look out and see a tidy garden, I am happy to know my garden has been put to bed and I can maybe, just maybe, think about a cozy nap.