Fall Is The Time To Prepare For Winter With Mulching And Pruning

Here it is fall and the garden is ready to snooze. Hold it, there is more work to be completed. Some mulching and some pruning. Those fallen leaves and dying annuals are not for the trash but that organic material is black gold for the garden.

A step that is both ordinarily and commonly neglected, to lay the garden to bed for the winter, is the addition of organic matter. More people should use organic matter in their beds rather than casting off their yard waste.See, this is right at our feet, yard waste. It has to be raked or mowed, so why not utilize it for Mother Nature’s blanket – mulch.

It is impossible to put too much organic matter into the soil. Fall is a good time for many reasons. One good reason is all of the materials that you want are there for free, leaves and dying plants.

A good suggestion is piling up leaves, grass clippings and dead plants (those free from disease) and going over them with a mulching mower, then putting them into the garden bed. How much benefit can a few inches layered on garden beds really help? A lot.

The very best thing a gardener can do to better their soil is add organic matter. It increases the water capacity and nutrient holding capacity of the soil. It assists in making minerals available for plants. While it accumulates, it binds clay particles into larger sums, improving aeration and drainage. And don’t forget, gardening success always begins from the ground up.

Alright, so it seems many gardeners are taking for granted the most important resource in the yard which is the soil. Now where do we begin? Run over that grass and leaves with a mulching lawnmower is recommended. This will shred the material into tiny pieces, and it can be left on as a top dressing. Put on two or three inches. If you have mulch already down, rake that back, apply to the surface the shredded organic matter and then return the mulch on top.

Working with mulch

Some jobs done in the fall will determine the success of the next gardening year. Mulching is one of these chores, particularly if you have put new perennials to the garden this fall. To mulch or not to mulch is highly talked about. Many experts claim that if you mulch too soon, it will cause new growth and give the plant a falsified view of the true temperatures. Other people say mulching is essential to ensure tenderness, and new perennials are provided a good foundation in which to root. One thing is for certain, just add mulch after you have cleared away any unwanted waste from the base of the plant. It is also best to wait until the ground is frozen.

Garden advice when less than 5% of our soils are composed of organic matter.
• Apply 25 to 50 pounds of compost per 100 square feet yearly.

Mulching over the winter works as an insulating blanket, keeping the soil from buckling from constant freeze and thaw cycles. If you plant perennials this fall without mulching, the bald soil will thaw during the day and freeze at night, producing movement that can heave small plants up out of the soil. The crown of the plant will be dried out and either be injured or die over the winter.

A concluding word on mulching, rose gardeners should not be in a big rush to mulch this fall. Putting down a layer of mulch now will do more harm than good. Fall freezes will not hurt the roses, so it is best to wait a few weeks for the soil to freeze before putting down a layer of your winter mulch to any rose.

Prune or not to prune

Specified perennials, such as peonies after their leaves have died, without a doubt need to be trimmed. The iris is also open to diseases and rotting and is better off if its leaves is trimmed back. The tree peony, however, is somewhat like a deciduous shrub with a woody stalk and won’t need to be trimmed, just fertilized around November and mulched for the onset of a cold winter.

A little bit of clean up and trimming should be evident, fruits and vegetables left deteriorating on the earth will only bring disease and rodents. Trimming perennials that provide no winter appeal will lower the likelihood of pests, disease and other gardening troubles, and it will liven up the outdoor space by making clean lines and a clean slate for the spring.

You can always leave perennials that have winter appeal, like sedum or black-eyed susan, and you always leave ornamental grasses there until spring. Texture and multi-colors of tan, brown and rust can be just as important to the winter garden as the bloom colors are to the garden of summer.

Plants, such as broad leaf evergreens, like holly and azaleas, are inclined to feel winter dryness and are much better left uncut.

So even if you’ve received kudos for the great color and design of your yard this season, we still need to clean up after the garden so that we are ready to start again in the spring.

Jim’s articles are from extensive research on each of his topics. You can learn more of fall prep, mulch and pruning by visiting: Fall preparation

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