Garden adventures, thoughts and ideas…

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To Rake or Not to Rake…

Like it or not, it’s that time of year again. Falling leaves – or those pesky leaves that seem to blow onto your lawn from every other tree in the neighbourhood. But what happens if you just leave them alone?

You can – for a while, but a heavy layer of maple, oak or other large leaves won’t keep your lawn healthy over the winter and will end up creating more work, and expense, when spring arrives.
Here’s the risk – a heavy layer of leaves, particularly left under an even heavier layer of snow will start to smother the lawn. It can’t breathe and therefore creates the perfect environment for diseases like snow mold and brown spot to develop – not to mention the pests that might decide to move in as well. The weight might also prevent new grass from sprouting in the spring.  That leaf-layer presents a barrier to water, nutrients and air that the root system needs to survive. 
But that doesn’t mean every single leaf needs to be removed – here’s a few ideas to reduce the risk and make good use of the nutrients that leaves can offer, when used correctly.
Run the lawn mower over them. Your lawn will love  you for it. Those finely shredded leaves will fall between the blades, adding both a fertilizer and mulch to the yard – which in turn helps reduce the number of weeds in the spring and provide healthy lawn growth.
Shred some for the garden beds. They’ll break down over the winter and will reduce the amount of time and money spent in adding nutrients before planting season starts again. 
And don’t forget your compost pile, it would welcome a good helping of shredded leaves. 
And if shredding isn’t your thing, then get out the rake, enjoy the warm autumn sun and bag them up in paper leaf bags (vs. plastic) so they can be taken to (or picked up – depending where you live) the local composting station…and who knows, when you go pick up compost in the spring…you might just be getting your own nicely-composted yard waste back! 
Oh….and a good jump or two in the leaf pile won’t hurt a thing!

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Fall Cleanup!

Yes, it’s that time again – time to get outside and get the garden cleaned up for what’s to come. Here’s a few fall garden and clean up tips that I find make getting back out in the spring an easy task!

– Start the clean up early so that the various jobs do not become overwhelming. Different areas and different plants can be cut, pulled or trimmed each week. As the summer annuals start to fade, pull them out – it keeps the garden looking clean during the fall and makes the entire cleanup easier.

– Shred the falling leaves and use them as mulch in the garden and around strawberries, roses and vines that need extra protection over the winter. They will break down by the spring and provide great nutrition for the new growth that starts in March.

– If you have raised beds, place a layer of newspaper in them to stop the sunlight and prevent new weed growth – and cover with a layer of ground up leaves. It all composts under the snow over the winter and you will be free of weeds next spring when it’s time to plant new seeds.

– Stake any new, young trees to prevent damage from winter winds. Add extra mulch to help protect them.

– When the first frost warning occurs, get those tomatoes, peppers, squash, and other veggies in the house. Pick up, and remove or compost any that have fallen – don’t leave them lying around to attract critters.

– Once the perennials are done, cut them back – it makes the spring clean up so much easier. Leave a few standing though, like sedum and black-eyed Susan’s to provide food for the birds.

– Don’t forget the houseplants. As the inside heat comes on, remember to fertilize and water more often than over the summer months.

– Overseed lawns, add extra to bare spots, and fertilize.

– Remove tender bulbs like dahlias and cannas from the garden as before the frost sets in. Keep surrounded by peat moss in a breathable container in a cool, dark spot for the winter.

– Clean up hosta leaves in the fall so the slugs do not have a place to hide for the winter.

– Don’t forget the tools – clean and sharpen pruners and shears – one less spring task to do. Removing mud and dirt from shovels, pruners and other tools helps prevent rust and keeps them working at their optimum. Drain the garden hose and move it to a protected location. And turn off the outside water tap to avoid freezing and possible damage.

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Fall Is On the Way!

But we still have plenty of good weather to look forward to here in zone 5 – today we’re in the 80’s and sunny! A perfect day for starting some of that fall cleanup.

There isn’t too much that needs to be done yet, but cut back any faded perennials – the spiderwort is done for the year, and those were cut to the ground today. I pulled out some of the obedient and gooseneck plants, leaving just a few that will spread again next year. Both quite invasive, but easy to control, and great summer plants.

Plant radishes and snowpeas for a fall harvest now – radishes take about 5 weeks and snowpeas aren’t all that far behind – each preferring the cooler weather. Mine should be ready the first week of October.

The raised beds are going to be receiving a layer of newspaper and then thick layer of shredded leaves as they all start to fall from the maples. The paper will stop the weeds from sprouting in the spring and will break down into the garden. The leaves will add additional darkness and also will break down over the winter adding extra nutrition to the beds. Grass clippings are also great – bag the mower when you cut and collect the grass for additional nutrition in the beds.

Pull out any ponds plants that are brown or faded looking. Once the frost hits, all annual pond plants need to be removed as to not contaminate the water – but take out any now that aren’t as bright looking as they should be.

And don’t forget the hummingbirds. They will soon be flying off to warmer climates, but need plenty of sweets to help keep them going. Fill the feeders and help them have a successful journey!