Just as a garden changes and evolves over time, so does the wisdom of gardening. Winterizing a garden used to mean thoroughly removing every leaf, stem and wilted flower, leaving a plot as tidy as a pin. But science has taught us that a whole host of important activities take place between these leaves, stems, and flowers. Today, an autumn cleaning looks very different than it did ten years ago. Instead of stuffing everything into garden bags, we are encouraged to leave much where it is.
so what should Does your to-do list contain? “Fall is a good time to reevaluate, look at what worked, what didn’t work, and plan for next year,” said Giuliana Casimirri, executive director of Green Venture, a nonprofit environmental education organization based in Hamilton , Ont. “[Fall] is a great time to plant trees,” she added.
So what do you do with all those leaves?
“Leave the leaves” has become an important phrase, Casimirri said, pointing out that leaves feed biodiversity and support critters during the winter.
Although we are encouraged to leave the leaves, there is a small caveat. They cannot leave thick mats of leaves on a lawn or they will smother the grass underneath. Likewise, they are useless for forming a wet, damp carpet over patio stones or a driveway. They have to be sent somewhere where they can decompose in peace. The solution? Rake them into perennial gardens, where they will collapse in winter while providing shelter for beneficial insects. If you have extra leaves, you can store them in a compost bin for later use.
Fall is the perfect time of year to add a composter to the garden. That doesn’t mean you have to suddenly start saving on kitchen waste. You can easily make compost from garden waste such as leaves, grass clippings, and twigs. And while it takes longer to break down, leaf mold, as the partially decomposed matter is called, adds valuable nutrients back to the soil. It is beneficial not only for perennial beds, but also for the vegetable garden.
Due to a lack of leaves in her city garden, on yard collection day, Casimirri drives to neighborhoods with large tree canopies, looks in a roadside bag to make sure all the leaves are there, and then brings them home to store in her yard use. That should tell you how valuable they are!
Make a leaf smoothie
While mowing leaves left on a lawn chops them into a size that will decompose more quickly, another tip from Casimirri is to make a “leaf smoothie.” She will place leaves in a trash can and use a weed cutter like a hand blender, moving it up and down to chop her leaves until they reach a sand-like consistency. These are distributed in the garden to nourish the soil. “They degrade much faster, the soil is so much richer and I don’t have to add anything after that,” she explained.
A case for leaving perennials untouched
“[Perennials] are often overlooked,” Casimirri said. In addition to winter interest, the hollow stems of perennials provide shelter for beneficial insects like native bees. And the seed pods of faded flowers of native plants like liatris and coneflowers provide food for birds. She also recommends planting native shrubs. “People plant a lot of perennials, but fewer shrubs that give structure in winter and perches [for birds].” Two of her favorites are common elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) and snowberry. “I see the robins on it in February when there’s nothing else,” she said, referring to the latter’s berries staying on the plant well into winter.
There are some plants that should be pruned back in the fall, especially if they are showing signs of disease. An example would be peonies, being careful not to damage the crown of the plant, that’s the fleshy knob where the stems connect to the root when you trim back the foliage.
When it comes to annuals that won’t reappear, you could use the chop-and-drop method recommended in The Regenerative Garden by Stephanie Rose. Simply cut back plant material that is pest and disease free (and that has not gone into seed) and let it decompose in place in the garden, covered in leaf mold and compost.
What should be stored for the winter?
Plant supports, garden hoses and watering cans, garden ornaments and empty terracotta or ceramic pots should be placed in a shed or garage over the winter. Once you’ve set up this DIY Fall Leaves Compost Bin, here’s a place to dispose of your used potting soil. If you have a rain barrel, Casimirri recommends emptying it and turning it upside down so it doesn’t rupture, and being careful to direct the water away from the house so it doesn’t affect your foundation.
Tidying up the vegetable garden
Another garden that you might want to give some attention to is the vegetable garden. Pull out any wilted plants that may be affected by diseases such as: B. Tomatoes. For the rest, Casimirri simply cuts healthy vegetable plants down to ground level, leaving the stalk underground to avoid tilling or digging up the soil or digging everything up. By spring it will have decayed.
And when it comes to leaving plants and foliage in place, seasoned green fingers need to let go of the neat fall garden aesthetic and embrace a slightly wilder space — like what you’d find in nature. Finally, a less tame look encourages a more sustainable garden.
Tara Nolan is the author of Garden your front yard and Raised Bed Revolution. She is also a third of the popular gardening website Experienced gardening.