Putting the Garden to Bed

What to Do ? What to Leave Alone

It seems like we?ve had one of the most glorious of all autumns. But it?s time to start putting the garden gently to rest for the winter. The protected garden is one that will hold up against the huge temperature shifts we will be exposed to.? Last year was scary: unseasonably warm January, unbelievably cold February; way too much rain in some areas and none in others.? The plants were confused and they were under a lot of stress this year from a hot and dry summer.

What to do

Make sure you have watered the entire garden deeply if rain is scarce. Evergreens especially need a lot of water dribbled in carefully all around the base?it must go well below the root system. Evergreens transpire all winter long and need to draw on these water reserves.

Fertilize deciduous trees but not with a high nitrogen fertilizer. I like to use a lot of compost around my trees?less confusion.

Mulch: I cannot emphasize this too much. Mulch keeps soil temperatures even and makes sure plants are heaved out of the ground in the freeze-thaw cycles of January. If you haven?t mulched before, try the following this year:

Once hard frost is on the ground, spread a 10cm layer of organic matter all around plants.
Use ground up leaves (steal nice healthy clean leaves from recycling for this if you don?t have enough) combined with compost and manure. Mix this together and bag it for spreading time.

If you don?t have enough mulch to cover the whole garden: concentrate on the most vulnerable plants.

Straw mulch has become popular recently even though it looks sloppy but if you put the straw down first (making sure it isn?t filled with seeds), then top it with your own compost or mulch mix, it will look slightly tidier.

In spring you can scrap it away to warm up soil and let it finish decomposing in the compost bin.

What to Leave Alone

This is the time of year when trees have a root growth phase. Evergreens drop old needles and need the carbohydrates in them for good growth in the spring. So do not touch these needles.

Actually, don?t tidy anything up too much. Leave any plant, shrub or vine with seeds alone. Birds will use them as food all winter. You want tall stalks to make the winter garden look animated.