Winterizing Your Garden

Now that fall is here and the gardening season is winding down, it?''s time to clean things up and put your garden to bed for the winter.

The first thing to do is remove any dead plants or flowers. If they are free from disease put them in your compost pile. Now is also the time to weed. Yes, weed! Pull up all the weeds that you can find, so that they cannot set seed and overwinter. Weed seeds can stay dormant for years, just waiting for the right conditions to germinate, so it'?'s best to try to give them as little chance at success as possible. Of course you will still get some next spring, but the more you do now, the less you will have to do then when you?'d rather be concentrating on your flowers and vegetables.

Now is also the time to do any pruning or cutting back that needs to be done. Lots of plants bloom on new wood, so the more you cut them back, the more flowers you will have next spring. There are lots of books available at your library to find out the proper time to prune specific plants.

Next, it is important to enrich the soil that has been depleted and to mulch heavily. Enriching the soil by adding compost, peat moss, manure, or other fertilizers gets it in top notch condition for spring, when you wouldn'?'t want to add ?"hot?" fertilizer (like fresh manure) at the same time you are planting. Mulching suppresses weeds, and helps with erosion, and besides it looks nice! It also protects any bulbs or perennials that you may have.

Clean your gardening tools and pots before storing them for the winter. You don?''t want any bacteria to have a field day while sitting in your tool shed. Get a bucket of hot soapy water, add a tablespoon or so of bleach, and scrub, scrub, scrub. It is very important to clean your pots that you intend to use next year as well. Contaminated pots are a frequent culprit of diseases to newly planted seedlings such as damping off disease.

It is also a good idea at this time to organize all of your gardening supplies. Put things into containers, such as your plant markers, twist ties, etc., and label them. Make sure any leftover bags of peat moss, soil, or fertilizers are closed tightly to prevent unwanted critters.

And last but not least, put down on paper a ?"floor plan?" so to speak, of a garden. This way, while it is cold outside and you'?'ve got spring fever but its a bit too early still; you can plan where you want to put things next year. It?''s always a good idea to rotate your crops anyway, and having a plan ahead of time makes the job much more enjoyable when the first spring bulbs start poking their heads through the soil!

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