Putting the Garden to Bed for the Winter

by Cherry Dodd on October 13th, 2011

Preparing a natural yard for winter involves a lot of doing nothing.
For instance, leave the seed heads and top growth on your perennials. The seed heads will feed the neighbourhood birds and the top growth will trap snow and also protect the tender new growth from frost.
For this reason don't rake up the leaves from your flowerbeds either. Fallen leaves trap moisture in the soil and act as mulch. Next season they will break down into valuable free organic fertilizer. I always add leaves in the fall to any bare spots that don't already have a thin layer. 
Also, make sure there are piles of leaves under any hedges, raspberry canes or shrubs. It's a great way to provide these plants with free fertilizer and, more importantly, provide a habitat for ladybugs who use these leaves to hibernate over winter. Ladybugs are so useful in getting rid of aphids and other invasive bugs that I try my best to give them good living conditions.

Other fall preparations
Give the whole garden a good soaking if we haven't had at least a couple of solid rainfalls by the end of the month. Plants can't go dormant properly when it is this dry.
If you have plants that haven't been planted yet, just bury the pots in the ground up to the rim, water them well and they will survive until spring.
If you have pots or flats where the seeds haven't yet germinated, don't give up on them yet. Bury them in the ground and see what happens next spring.
Now is a good time to collect seeds. If the stem of the seed head is a bit brown and dry the seeds are ready to be picked. Once they are gathered let them dry in paper bags for a month before you store them.


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