Fall Garden Tips

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It’s getting very chilly here in upstate New York. It went down to 27 degrees F overnight, so it’s time to get that fall garden clean-up done.
I find this part of gardening to be quite sad, but I am encouraged by the fact that all my perennials will be back next year. I’m also already looking forward to next years’s vegetable garden.

I start my fall garden clean-up by doing a little perennial maintenance. This means cutting flower stalks back and dividing plants, if necessary.

Dahlias were one of the floral highlights of my garden this year. They’re not a perennial in the Northeast, but the good news is you can dig them and other tender bulbs up and store them indoors over the winter for planting again next year. Wait about a week or two after the first frost, then cut the stalk down to about 6 inches and dig the big root clump up. Be careful not to damage the bulbs. Rinse off and dry at room temperature, then place in paper bags for storage. Make sure to label your bulbs, so you know what you’re planting next spring. This is a great way to avoid the expense of having to purchase them again next year.

Bulbs that are meant to winter in the ground should be planted now, before the ground freezes and makes this impossible. Prune shrubs and protect young trees at this time as well.

Next, you’ll want to empty out your annual container plants …

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… and bring the pots into your garage (or a shed) for winter storage. I generally dump the contents of all of my containers into the compost (potting soil can’t be re-used next year, unfortunately). If you have container plants that will survive inside over the winter, bring them in now. In the past, I’ve successfully maintained passion flowers and citrus trees inside.

And don’t forget about your annual inground flowers and vegetables. Harvest any vegetables left on the vines, then pull out all of the dead plants and weeds.

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Add them to your compost, if appropriate (don’t add any diseased plants, of course). Once you’ve cleaned out all of your annual flowers and vegetables, it’s a good idea to build up the beds with some compost. Compost added to your garden now will have lots of time to break down and enrich your soil by the time you’re ready to plant next year.

Lastly, make sure to store all of your tools inside a shed or other protected area for the winter, so they’re ready for you to use next spring.

— Winnie Abramson writes the organic gardening and food blog Healthy Green Kitchen

Photo credit: Winnie Abramson

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