While some of us may have harvested the last of our autumn crops already, that doesn’t mean we’re done gardening for the year. Even without weeds to pull or produce to collect, there’s a lot of work that goes into readying your garden to weather the winter.
The effort you put into your garden in fall can be utilized for more than one purpose. In the midst of trimming, mulching, and weeding, consider the opportunity to add perennials to your landscape. You’ll reap benefits year-round as the plants continue to mature and minimize your garden workload, along with providing a host of benefits to your annuals and the soil they reside in.
Photo by Pexels/Richard Fletcher
Before you close up shop on your garden for the season, you should do a final pass through and remove any unwanted or dead plants and debris. Get rid of any lingering weeds, remove stalks that won’t be fruitful come spring, and trim up any loose ends. Aesthetically, this will be more pleasing through the winter, and it’ll save you a lot of time through the spring.
If you have an herb garden in pots, or even in the ground, move them inside for the winter. By keeping perennial or biennial herbs indoors, you’ll have a supply of fresh herbs to cook with all season long. Some perennial herbs may be hardy enough to survive winter outdoors.
Protect any of your existing perennials that may not survive frozen ground by (carefully) digging them up. Bulbs should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry place through the winter until it’s time for them to be replanted. Understanding what USDA growing zone you live in will help you determine what plants need to brought indoors.
Add a layer of mulch or compost to the top of your garden. Not only will mulch provide nutrients throughout the winter, but the extra layer will help to insulate the ground from temperature swings throughout the winter, creating a more stable environment for any wintering plants.
If you don’t yet have perennials in your garden, consider rototilling a layer of compost into the soil prior to putting down a layer of mulch. Leaving compost in the ground all winter allows plenty of time for the mixture to break down and release nutrients into the soil, giving you a jump on next year’s prep.
Photo by Pixabay/cocoparisienne
While you’re going through the trouble of prepping your beds for a few months of frost (or snow, if you’re like me), you may as well put a little time and energy into making next spring easier on yourself.
Perennials can be the perfect way to ensure a fresh spring — and in some cases, a colorful winter, too — without all the work. Providing your garden with year-round plants not only does your schedule a favor, but it also benefits the health of your garden.
Over time, plants that return year after year will develop complex root systems that reach deep into the soil. This allows the plants to access deeper water and nutrient systems, and bring them up to higher soil levels for more plants to enjoy. Your annuals will thank you, and you won’t be spending as much time watering and fertilizing.
As the plants become more established, they’ll disappear less and less in the winter. The structure and vines they leave behind will provide protection against soil erosion, as well as shading the soil from wind. When the leaves fill in during spring and summer, the ground will be protected from dehydrating sunlight.
Photo by Pexels/Binyamin Mellish
For Ground Cover:
• Cypress bushes are evergreen plants that are wider than they are tall and are generally left alone by hungry deer.
• Creeping thyme is an aromatic perennial good for erosion control and strong enough to withstand being walked on.
• Ivy should be planted with caution due to its aggressive nature, but the climbing vines can also be used as ground cover.
For Easy Produce:
• Herbs can yield all year round, allowing for dishes to taste garden fresh, even when all the ingredients aren’t.
• Berry plants are hardy, compost-loving garden additions that give gardens great color (and sweetness) during harvest.
For Wintery Blooms:
• Hellebores, or Christmas Roses, provide bright blooms against dark leaves.
• Heather blooms year-round and provides nutrients for bees when other blossoms have faded.
• Crocus create a delicate silhouette as they open and close with the winter sun.
Devin roams the Pacific Northwest, looking for a place to plant his roots and commit to "serious" writing. Until then, you can find his words scattered across various web publications, proving his jack of all trades status, or you can just look at his Twitter.
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