Winter. Is. Coming.
Life has slowed down on the old quarry here, tree leaves quietly creating a carpet of burnt orange below the branches, the frost killing off the remaining annuals to blackened stems and the smell of fireplaces fill the air - autumn is in full force but I can tell winter is coming!
Which brings me to what to do to prepare your garden for the winter:
1. Take Stock: What I like to do first is take stock of what worked well and what didn't in the gardens. With the thousands of things already occupying my mind, I keep a Garden Journal filled with notes on what I purchased, where I located it and how it did. Carrots were the big winners in my veggie garden, and my tomatoes didn't do so well this year, whereas last year it was the complete opposite. What went wrong? What did I do differently? Lots of notes to keep track of and try to figure out how to do it better next year.
2. Rake Leaves: I love raking leaves. I know, I'm a weirdo, but I've mentioned this before, so its no secret. There is something very zen about raking leaves into soft piles (ignoring the kids throw themselves into said piles) and spreading them among my garden beds as winter mulch, like tucking your plant babies in for a long winter sleep. It's true: leaves are the perfect mulch for those areas that experience seriously cold temperatures, but perhaps aren't covered in a protective layer of snow for the whole season, as they might have been once upon a time in the near past.
3. Remove Dead Matter: I used to cut all the dead perennials in my garden beds down to the ground for a clean slate in the spring. It looked tidy to me. But after certifying our property as a Wildlife Habitat, I learned that some beneficial insects spend their winters in the hallow stems of perennials and grasses, many birds depend upon the dried seed heads or berries as winter food sources, as well as the 'messy' garden provides much-needed habitat for over-wintering birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
4. Go Crazy Weeding: I did my walk around the yard the other day, and noticed that the edges of the yard was feeling the pressure from invasive weeds coming in from the old quarry. So the hubby and I got to work yanking these out of the ground (quite easily as we've had rain for weeks previously) before they can take control of the rest of our garden.
5. Plant Bulbs: I did a big bulb planting in October, then saw a pretty purple pack of different bulb types at my local nursery, so I bought more! More I say, there's always room for more bulbs!
6. Clean Tools: Your garden tools work hard for you, and like your plants, need some winter care to keep them working their best for the growing season. I have a bucket partially-filled with oily sand, and when I'm done with my tools, I shove them deep in the gritty sand which has the triple benefit of keeping them clean, rust-free and sharp!
7. Feed Your Soil: Its never a good idea to fertilise your garden beds too late in autumn, as that might encourage a rush of growth when the plants' growth should be slowing down, but prepping your soil for the spring is a good idea. I like to add layers of comfrey leaves to my alkaline-loving plants to provide natural source of potassium, and wood chips to my acid-loving blueberries, hydrangeas and rhododendrons.
8. Hose Care: The other day I went to wrap my hose up, and being early morning before the sun warmed the air, the hose was frozen in a solid spiral! Yipes - garden faux pas! I waited until the temperatures rose to melt the icy hose and dragged it across my front porch to remove all the water remaining in it. Then rolled it up and put it away. Done and done.
9. Late Harvest Veggies: Surprisingly, some vegetables actually taste better, with sharper flavours after a frost. This is due to the drop in temperatures causing the plants to break down energy stores into sugars, leading to a sweeter flavour. Members of the cabbage family, such as cauliflowers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and kale, and some root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips and leeks finds their taste improves after a cold snap. Impressively, some types of cabbage will keep growing in temps as low as -3C (26F) and kale can survive temperatures as low as -12C (10F)!
10. Seed Catalogue Ordering (otherwise known as Garden Porn): there might be a layer of frost on the ground but I can still dream of planting garden beds for next year!