By Jennifer Fairfield, owner the Garden Mill
I haven’t heard anybody complaining about the weather we’ve been having lately. OK, Oct. 31 wasn’t so great, but we’ll be back in the 70’s again at the end of this week.
My only complaint is that I seem to have done something to my knee, which has kept me from getting any work done outdoors in this lovely weather – and there’s lots to do. I’m sure that my knee will decide to get better just as the weather decides to get all cold and nasty.
Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to bundle up at that point and get out there. The work will still be waiting for me.
If you’re able to get outside in this lovely November weather, there are a number of things you can do:
Any annual plants that you still have in your garden should be pulled out and either trashed or composted. Composting is best for anything that is not diseased. Plants with disease should just be tossed in the trash so as not to introduce diseases to your compost.
As a rule, I never compost tomatoes or potatoes because they almost always end up with blight, and I don’t want that sticking around. You also don’t want to leave any diseased plants in your garden over the winter, as that gives diseases the opportunity to stick around over the winter and show up early in your crops next spring.
Most diseases need the right environment to flourish – plant material and conditions being most important – so if we have a somewhat mild winter, and you leave plant material in your garden, you are providing the environment the diseases need to survive.
An exception to the “pull it out now” rule would be kale, and maybe Brussels sprouts. These can take some cold weather, so you might be able to get a little more out of them yet.
If you have perennial herbs in your garden, such as sage or thyme, give them a good layer of mulch to keep the roots protected over the winter. If any of these have shown signs of disease, cut them all the way back, so as not to leave any foliage for the disease to hold onto over the winter. Then cover the plant entirely with mulch after the ground freezes, to protect the roots from fluctuations in temperature.
Pull weeds and throw them in the compost pile, as long as they don’t have seed heads – you don’t want the seeds sprouting in your compost.
Speaking of compost, if you haven’t turned your pile lately, that’s another thing to do now. While we’re still having some warmer temperatures, getting the stuff that’s on top down into the center and bottom of the pile will give it the chance to heat up and start decomposing before the cold sets in and all the heat is lost.
If you have compost that’s ready, add it to your garden once you’ve cleaned the garden up. Till it in lightly to get it mixed with the soil, and to expose weed seed and insects. The birds will thank you.
Plant garlic. The weather is perfect for garlic planting – days that aren’t so cold you don’t want to be outside, with nights that are cold enough that the soil has cooled down enough so your garlic won’t start putting out shoots before winter. If you haven’t gotten your garlic bulbs yet, don’t wait too much longer – we’re already getting low on a few of the varieties we have this year, and you don’t want to miss out. You can plant garlic all the way up until just before the ground has frozen.
Pull spent annuals this month. Compost them, as long as they are not showing any signs of disease – the same cautions about diseased vegetables apply to flowers.
Remove weeds from your flower beds to give you a head-start next spring.
Once the soil has cooled down, add a layer of fresh mulch to your flower beds to help protect the plants’ roots from frost heave this winter. If you have compost, add a layer to the soil before adding mulch. You don’t need to till it in – it will break down under the mulch over the winter.
Just like garlic bulbs in the vegetable garden, this weather is perfect for planting spring-blooming bulbs. Planting crocus, daffodils, tulips, and all the other lovely early spring bloomers now will mean a gorgeous show of color in the spring, and we’ve got a great selection at the store right now! You can see some of that selection at our online store. A larger selection and discounts are available in-store.