Gardening for Life: Getting ready for fall and winter
By JOSE GERMAN
For Montclair Local
Jose German is a New Jersey environmental activist, Essex County certified master gardener and Montclair resident. He is the founder of the Northeast Earth Coalition (neearth.org), a nonprofit environmental organization.
The summer is over and the start of fall is bringing cooler weather. Our gardens are losing some of their midsummer exuberance. It is time to retake the garden by pruning, deadheading, and planting something new for the season to enhance the beauty of the garden. If you are into vegetable gardening, you have time to grow more veggies until the first heavy frosts, likely in November.
Fall Gardening tasks:
- Deadhead flowering plants and shrubs, but remember to leave in place seed heads of some flowers, such as echinacea, which will help feed birds through the fall and winter.
- Relocate (or remove) voluntary plants that emerged over the summer.
- Organize the flower beds and apply a layer of mulch. It is OK, and good for the environment, to leave fallen leaves in your garden beds. You can add a thin layer of mulch to hold the leaves in place and give it a neat look. Edging around the garden beds will also provide that “fresh garden look”.
- Feed your lawn with organic fertilizer and seed it.
- Planning a new garden for next season? The timing is perfect.Plant bulbs for spring flowers. October is also the time to plant next year’s garlic crop.
- Adding new trees to your yard? This is the perfect time to plant new deciduous trees (but not evergreens).
Your garden is a wildlife habitat even if you did not plan it that way. During the winter, beneficial insects and other creatures are hibernating. If you delay your garden clean up until the spring, it will be a boon for all the creatures living there. Instead of disturbing their fragile habitat with a major garden cleanup, wait until next April. When the weather warms up, the beneficial critters hiding in your yard will emerge from their long winter nap.
When cleaning your yard, instead of using a leaf blower use a rake. If you don’t have the energy to rake your yard, you can use your mower as a vacuum machine and leaf shredder. The shredded leaves make excellent mulch. Also, rather than bagging your collected leaves and disposing of them, add them to your compost pile for use in fertilizing your beds in the spring.
Remember that some cool-weather crops, such a kale and collard greens, frequently survive over the winter. Instead of pulling them out during the fall clean up, leave them in place. You’re likely to have one last bountiful harvest in the spring.
It is time to give back to your garden. During the year, your garden has nurtured you and your family with beautiful colors and shapes, exotic fragrances, nice and delicious produce. Let’s put our love and energy into feeding and preparing the garden for the winter while we dream about the beauty and bounty of next year’s season.