Sunday, November 1, 2015

Bed Time

It's November so the window for getting all the fall landscape chores is closing. Notice the word "all." Thank goodness there are no landscape police who will be issuing warnings if things aren't one hundred percent completed by the time it's just too darn cold to be outside.  Finish your list as weather and time permits, but one task is always done in my garden before the snow flies, or rather–before the snow remains put.
Any open or unplanted soil like a vegetable or annual planting area can be "put to bed." Just as tucking in young children before bedtime requires steps that generally include a bath, pj's, teeth brushing and hearing a great bedtime story, ( may I suggest Go, Dog. Go!), tucking in a garden area requires a few easy steps as well.
Use mowed leaves with grass for your bedding

The goal and outcome is to protect the soil through the winter. Tucking in or covering bare soil with a thick blanket of organic mulch each fall will almost guarantee easier planting and healthier soil next spring. If soil is left exposed all winter it cycles between wet - dry - cold - warm - windy periods which causes the soil to blow around, and crack and split like a dried out jar of brown shoe polish. Don't let this happen to you...or your precious garden soil! 

Dry, cracked, unhappy, not tucked in soil
The steps are simple, first pull out all remaining spent vegetables and annual plantings. Toss any disease-free materials into the compost pile. Next, the free "bedding" is all around you–fallen leaves with or without mowed grass (chemical-free a must). This mix makes the best comforter or maybe you're a duvet person. I like lots of blankets, so make your mulch bed three to four inches thick to begin. 

Place the shredded leaves over the bed, then water it well so it doesn't blow away in the first ten minutes. Renew the mulch all winter with leftover leaves you'll keep bagged outside somewhere (plan ahead and ask neighbors for their leaves for reserve). Weed and seed free straw is an option too.  

Avoid using wood mulch, especially for vegetable beds; it just doesn't break down easily like leaves and grass. Use wood mulch around perennials, shrubs and trees. In lieu of covering beds with organic material, growing cover crops adds valuable organic matter and protects the soil from blowing away.

Soil underneath will be protected all winter and much easier to work in next spring


"Go on...time to get out there and make your winter beds!"

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