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Cleaning up gardens

Old Man Winter is giving us a little taste of what is soon to come in our area. If you have not started to work on cleaning up in the garden, it may be wise to start planning for that to happen now. The wintery weather that will be upon us will soon have many of the tender plants needing to be dug up, potatoes to be dug up and also there will be lots and lots of leaves to rake up. The great thing about leaves from trees, as long as they are not diseased foliage, is to use them as mulch or to place them into your compost pile. The fragrance of decomposing leaves on the ground mixed with freshly tilled soil from our area farmers is something that reminds me of all fall things.

In the past, we used to clean up our gardens so that in the springtime, they were ready to go. We now advise gardeners to go slow in the garden clean-up and don’t worry about getting it all done this fall. The reason why is that it helps our pollinator friends who often times use hollow stems to either overwinter in or to use them as a nursery for the next generation of bees. The plant litter left in the garden can also hinder some of the bees that are ground nesters. We have a high percentage of this type of bee in our area. If we deeply mulch every single part of our gardens, it makes it harder for them to nest in the ground.

The areas that need to be cleaned up with care are any areas where you may have had a disease problem that was ongoing in the garden this summer. If a plant or two has had a disease, then it is wise to make sure that those leaves from those plants are raked up and taken out of the garden. If you see some problems with some of the trees in your yard or even the shrubs, it is best to wait until the temperatures are consistently below 32 degrees. Trees and shrubs will want to start the growth process again after a branch has been cut. This new branch will not survive the winter because it has not had the time to harden off. Once the temperature remains below freezing, then you can prune if you wish but remember you have until next spring when it starts to warm up once again as well.

Flowering plants that have had disease issues should be removed and deposited in an area away from your compost pile. It is OK to leave some plants as this helps the snow to collect in the garden and snow is a very good insulator for the plants during the winter months.

Leaves, tree branches and the like should not go into the trash or recycling bin. Compost if you can or use the city’s municipal compost facility. It is just as important to remember that if you have flowers, shrubs and trees that have seeds and other similar items left on them going into the winter, to leave them for the birds and other wildlife. They can use these items to help survive the winter months.

Bulbs that we do not need to dig up in the fall are called hardy bulbs. These types of bulbs actually need cold temperatures in order for the bulb to get a signal to start growing and then bloom. These types of bulbs are showing up now on the store shelves and they are ready to be planted. Read the label for good planting instructions. They will last for years with good growing conditions. These bulbs can be dug up every few years and divided. While the past few years have not been a problem with watering, it is important that our fall planted, hardy bulbs have enough water to make it through the winter. If fall is dry, it is a good thing to make sure that all of your plants, shrubs trees, perennials and bulbs are well watered until the ground freezes. If Mother Nature provides the water, then you certainly can put the garden hoses away for the winter months.

If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener, time is starting to run short. Applications must be handed in by Oct. 1. Residents who are interested should go to the following website at https://umn.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6J1DJR73O0OqwFD.

For more information on gardening, you can reach me at s.dejaeghere@me.com

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