Batten down the hatches

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to batten down the hatches and get ready for winter. Each year, I discover that there’s more to do, hence, the process is more time consuming.

As fall progresses, I’m always awed by the way Mother Nature does her thing. The temperature often drops rapidly. Plants and shrubs that aren’t killed by frost slip into a dormant state. Take no chances and cover up shrubs likely to be damaged by severely cold weather.

Clear out the blackened stems of annuals and vegetables to stop their nurturing disease pathogens and insect eggs over the winter.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s a good time to make a cold frame and dig and secure raised beds. Even though it seems as if your garden has done its work for the season, under the soil there’s a lot of life that will continue to thrive until the soil freezes. Transplanted trees and shrubs, bulbs and some perennials are growing roots and taking in nutrients and moisture from the surrounding soil. Earthworms and some microbes are hard at work around the clock processing all the organic material they can find.

It’s pretty fascinating. Just when you think everything has stopped, the mysterious wheels of Mother Nature keep grinding on making every second count. While we humans do our thing, God’s creatures are operating under a different set of rules. Judging by their organized activities, they’re far more disciplined than we are. We can learn a great deal by just observing.

Because the mulch spread in the early part of the summer has decomposed, this is the time to spread a thick new layer of mulch to protect plants and soil over the winter. Once the soil freezes, mulch keeps it frozen. But a smooth, thick layer of snow insulates the soil the same way mulch does.

Make sure stems of perennials are cut back to soil level. Composted dead plants create a solid organic soil conditioner. It also kills weeds and diseased plant matter.

Rather than burn or get rid of falling leaves by grinding them back into the soil with a push or rider mower, try to rake or blow all your leaves into one or several places throughout your property. It adds another layer of work to your fall cleanup, but it’s well worth the extra effort. It took me a while to realize that fallen dead leaves were an incredible resource. It irks me when I think about the tons of leaves I either burned or blew into the woods so they wouldn’t kill my lawns.

Dead leaves combined with pine cones, pine needles and twigs and small branches make great mulch after they decompose. And to think that I used to buy mulch. What a waste of money? Now I have more mulch than I know what to do with. Like wine aging in casks, my neat and very huge piles of dead leaves, roots and twigs turn into quality mulch over the winter and spring months. Once the piles are made, I let nature take its course. At the end of the winter or beginning of spring, I turn the mulch regularly with a pitch fork or haying fork so that the piles decompose evenly.

I love the way the huge cone-like piles look around my property. It’s also nice to know that I’m not wasting, but making good use of a natural resource.



About the Author

Bob Weinstein | Living Better