As October stretches into cold, there’s a few “this and that” you may want to accomplish in the garden.
I seldom do a big fall garden clean up because I’ve found leaves bunched around my perennials is nature’s mulch. On the flip side (isn’t there always a flip side to nature), I recommend trimming all iris leaves to a couple of inches and burn the debris (do not compost.) This will help eliminate iris borers that lay eggs on the leaves for over wintering. Wait until we’ve had a hard freeze so the moths are killed. Take all debris under and close to the iris. You can then let tree leaves blow in naturally.
You still have time to plant spring flowering bulbs. Most important: plant bulbs at the right depth. Try some old fashioned heirloom spring flowering bulbs such as Alliums, anemones, Glory-of-the-Snow, Dutchman’s Breeches, Trout Lily, Fritillaria, snowdrops, Grape Hyacinth and one of my favorites: Siberian Squill. These bulbs can be found at nurseries and sometimes at a big box store. Take a chance on a bag for a sweet surprise.
Plant spring flowering bulbs where the leaves can be left to die naturally without mowing or cutting; It’s where they get their nutrients for next year’s flowers.
I have never NEVER regretting one spring flowering bulb I planted. Did I mention NEVER? I always plant them where they are either visible from a window or beside a path where we walk in the spring. Although tulips do not live forever, most other spring flowering bulbs spread with abandon and will be making your yard beautiful long after you’ve moved away. A tree is planted for future generations. Spring flowering bulbs are planted for all generations.
Some things need mulched. If you want to use beautiful mulch or simply functional mulch – it’s your garden. Cedar mulch works. Straw or shredded newspaper works. Leaves and evergreen trimmings work. Compost works. If you use your own mixture, don’t use anything that had mildew or other diseases. Keep the mulch out from bushes and tree stems at least an inch or two. You’re protecting the roots not the stem. Rodents living in mulch up against the stem may decide one cold night to use bark as their new best winter treat.
Remove all leaves that have mildew and burn or destroy – don’t compost. Mildew was out-of-control this year and you don’t want to overwinter.
At this time, do not cut back spring flowering bushes unless it’s for health and safety purposes. You will be cutting off the buds needed for the flowers.
Leave seed heads for the birds. Plus, clumps of dried ornamental grasses, dried leaves on bushes and vines and some unmowed grass are needed during those cold windy days and nights.
Wash out bird feeders with a mild solution of 1 gallon of water/1/4 cup of bleach – then rinse and let dry before filling. Empty birdhouses of their nests and treat the same way. Most birds won’t seek the nesting houses in the winter.
As we’re enjoying the orange and black scary Halloween decorations, it isn’t too early to get up Christmas lights (you will thank yourself in November when it’s sleeting, the ground is frozen and your holiday spirit is somewhere south of Florida.)
Clean out the gutters when the last leaf has fluttered into a packed soggy mess because it will freeze and cause winter/spring water damage.
If you take your screens off and wash them with dishwashing soap and water, rinse and store inside, they will last years longer. This will also remove the allergens. Hose out the window tracks of insects. Ladybugs and Asian beetles love to pack into those tracks for the winter and slowly migrate inside on sunny days.
Scrape all mud from garden tools, wash with the above mentioned bleach solution, dry and cover with an oil.
And about this time of the year, it’s time to put up your feet and realize we had a pretty darn mild summer, many successes and we can mark summer 2014 down as done. Stay safe farm friends and see you in the spring.