Getting ready for winter

This is the time of the year when we start to really wind down for winter, at least in the garden sense. The leaves are dropping, cooler temperatures are here and yes, maybe even some snow. Gardening may be winding down but it isn’t done quite yet. There are still many, many green plants growing in our perennial gardens and we can still plant spring flowering bulbs.

The green and growing plants are leading us to a slowdown in getting our flower beds ready for winter. I don’t like to start to cut them back until Jack Frost has finished them off. This helps them to get themselves ready for winter. They are feeding their roots, the perennials that we love to watch grow each year. So, I am leaving mine to get to the point where I can start to cut some of them back. It was until recently that I would use a lawn mower and just mow them off, but no more. Mason Bees can use plants that have hollow stems as homes. We can leave some of the hollow stems for them to overwinter in and next year we can provide a bee home or make one from different kinds of wood such as bamboo or plant materials that have a hollow stem, hang them together near a building or in a garden for them to build their homes in. The trick is that you have to leave them for at least two years. There are all sorts of bees that nest in the ground-60 percent or more of bee species in fact. There are another 30 percent or so that nest in hollowed out stems.

After my plants have succumbed to Jack Frost, I will move in and start cutting some of them back so there is less work in the spring. I will start to mulch as soon as the ground has frozen, at least 2 inches down. It is not necessarily the cold temperatures that are hard on things as much as the freezing and thawing later on in the spring. We can use leaves to mulch but better yet is to use straw or hay if possible. This can go on and stay on until the threat of colder temperatures is gone sometime in April. I usually wait until around Oct. 31, using the Halloween holiday to help me remember to get it done but this year, with all of the rain we have experienced, the plant material we have in the garden seems to be much, much larger this year.

And lastly, if you have ordered some bulbs but they have not yet come, you might want to dig the holes that you need for those bulbs and cover them with straw or other mulch to keep the soil warm in those locations until they come. Once they come, it is pretty easy to plop them into the soil, cover them up and replaced the mulch. They are ready to go for next year’s growing season!

For more information on gardening, you can reach me at