5 Tips for Putting the Garden to Bed

cutting back garden

Photo source:  Michigan State University Extension

As the leaves begin to fall across the lovely state of New Hampshire, it’s time to say goodbye to our garden beds until next season.  If you consider yourself to be an amateur gardener, you may be wondering what steps need to be taken this time of year.  Here are five tips to help ensure your garden is tucked in for the coming winter months:

  1. Divide & Plant: Fall is a great time to divide hostas, peonies, and lilies. Since the fall of 2017 has proven to be abnormally warm, there is still a little time left for planting in Belknap County. With that said, keep an eye on the weather forecast to ensure you allow enough time for roots to establish before the cold sets in. To aid this process, water newly established plants right up until the ground begins to freeze.
  2. Snip, Clip, and Prune: There seems to be two schools of thought on cleaning up garden beds at the end of a season. Some prefer to keep things clean and tidy by cutting all plants back and removing the debris. Although this option requires more time and physical labor, it is a good way to mitigate pests and diseases come spring.  An alternative to this method is to clip, snip, and drop clippings as demonstrated by Mary Tebo Davis from UNH Cooperative Extension in this video: https://youtu.be/wKQs7y4C0sA
    Simply use pruners and shears to cut back plants, but leave debris to help feed the garden. This will not only save on time, but will also help to improve soil quality. Leave the seeds of Black-Eyed Susan and Echinacea Coneflower for birds to feed on over the winter months. Other perennials such as lily stalks and ornamental grasses can serve as a garden focal point over the dreary winter months.
  3. Plant Bulbs: As we watch the last of the color fade from our gardens, we can begin dreaming of the first flowers to appear after the snow melts away. Fall is the best time to drop spring blooming bulbs such as tulips and daffodils into the ground; just make sure the soil temperature hasn’t dropped below 60 degrees. It’s also the perfect time to set garlic cloves to be harvested next season. New to growing garlic? Jeremy Delisle of UNH Cooperative Extension highlights the steps to planting a bed of garlic in this WMUR “Grow It Green” segment: https://youtu.be/fyTtctuDDw0
    To help get you started, the UNH Cooperative Extension has created this Garlic Fact Sheet
  4. Protect: The howling wind and icy temperatures aren’t too far away. Use the months of October/November to ensure tender plants and shrubs are protected from the elements. A blanket of straw can be used to protect plants such as strawberries and blueberries; look to burlap to wrap hydrangeas and ornamental evergreens; and rely on wooden structures to provide shelter for immature azaleas and rhododendrons. Check out the following fact sheets for more tips: winter protection for roses  and evergreens.
  5. Clean & Store Supplies: Once the growing season has come to an end, its time to clean and store garden supplies and tools. Start by removing any soil or debris from the tools. Follow this step by disinfecting clippers and shears by either soaking in a bleach solution for 20 minutes, wiping down with rubbing alcohol, or using disinfectant wipes. This is also a great time of year to sharpen blades to ensure clean cuts in the future. Store ceramic pots and tools in a garage, shed, or basement. Don’t forget the hose; and be sure to turn off the water supply to spigots.

Contributor:  Sarah Roberts, Master Gardener













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