It is that time of year when you need to start to put the garden to bed. I’ve developed a list over the last several years which comes in handy to make sure I get all my chores done. It goes back to when I worked at the botanical garden and needed to stay organized. I thought I would divide it into two parts, this week and next week.
1. Plant up winter containers. A few strategically placed containers can brighten up the entry to your home or a spot in the garden visible from the house. They will also allow you the opportunity to be creative. Go to the nursery and select a few plants for the season or some that will last through the winter. Once they are planted they will be easy to maintain. The containers should need very little watering, if any, and no fertilizing.
2. Plant a cover crop. If you have a vegetable garden at home, you may want to plant a cover crop that will protect the soil through the winter and also add nutrients when it is turned under in the spring. A good one for this area is Crimson Clover. It gets bright red flowers that add a bit of color to the garden. Here at the farm we have chickens which we turn lose in the veggie garden instead of a cover crop. They scratch, tearing the old plants to pieces as well as eat weeds and fertilize it a bit. In the spring we add a little more of our own compost and turn it under.
3. Select plants for fall color. Now is a good time to go to the nurseries and look at the selection of plants that are good for fall color. A few on my list are Euonymus, Ginkgo, Acer, Parrotia, Rhus, Fothergilla and Hydrangea quercifolia. I also take a note book so that I can make note of plants I may want to get in the future. It might be too expensive to get all you want at one time but if you have good notes you can go back in the spring and find them then.
4. Selecting plants for winter bloom and fragrance. In the dead of winter it really brightens the day to see a winter-blooming plant. A couple of possibilities are Sarcococca and Hamamelis (witch hazel). The fragrance from Sarcococca is unbeatable. I planted some between the car and the house, so come January I can get a whiff of it on the way indoors and it will remind me of spring to come.
5. Spring bulbs. Now is the time to plant your spring bulbs. It might be a bit late for mail order but we just ordered last week and they still had most of what we wanted. If not, you can always come to Old Goat Farm in the spring and buy some already potted up and blooming (shameless plug). Some of my favorites are Anemone, Camass, Crocus, Cyclamen, Eranthis, Galanthus, Narcissus, Hyacinth, Lilies, Scilla, and Tulips.
6. PLANT. Fall is the best time to plant. By planting now the plant has time to develop a good root system for next year. Perennials, shrubs and trees will all settle in and start root growth. The rains have started and the soil temperatures are still warmer than they would be in the spring, thus promoting better root growth.