As we progress further into the cool, crisp days of autumn, it is time to turn our attention to preparing the garden for the winter to come and even look forward to next year’s garden. By preparing, you can conserve resources and energy for next year’s gardening season.
This week, I’ll talk about a few things you can do to enjoy the garden in the fall and get ready for next year.
Put leaves to good use
The leaves that fall from trees and fill your yard can be a nuisance to keep cleaned up. Don’t just throw them away, though. Leaves have several uses around the garden.
First, shredded leaves can make a great quick mulch for the vegetable garden or for the landscape. Pile them on top of tender plants in the landscape to keep the plants from freezing and use them in the vegetable garden for both protection and to keep soil in place over the winter.
Leaves are also an important resource for composting. The problem is that you have lots of leaves in the fall and really need them in the spring and summer when you have lots of green stuff to mix with them. Stockpile leaves for next year’s composting by filling large trash bags full of dry leaves and storing them out of the way. You’ll have plenty of dry, brown matter for next year’s garden.
You can also apply leaves to the garden and till them in for an infusion of organic matter when they compost in place.
If you don’t plan on saving your leaves and you live in the city, be sure to rake them to the front curb to be vacuumed up.
Yard waste that is put in clear bags and set out with the trash generally goes to the landfill and is not composted in this area. That is such a waste of resources! I’ve been known to requisition bags of leaves set out by my neighbors in the fall (shhh … don’t tell them).
Stink bug invasion
The brown marmorated stink bug moved in several years ago and has been terrorizing peaceful citizens ever since. These critters want to get in where it is warm.
They are sort of a replacement for the Asian lady beetles of years past (though some people still have the lady beetle blues).
The best way to deal with these pests and keep them out of your house is to make sure that your house is well sealed. You should seal any door and window frame cracks, check for gaps around pipe and utility entrances, make sure all soffits are covered, ensure that all attic vents are screened, and replace any torn window screens on windows that are open.
There really hasn’t been an effective chemical treatment found for these guys. Some folks have luck using products that contain cyfluthrin or bifenthrin, but these are high-powered chemicals and should be used very carefully, if at all, around homes. These would be applied to the exterior of the house around points of entry and not inside the house.
Once these flying menaces have made their way inside, it is too late to control them. In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Add flavor to winter meals
There are several things that you can grow indoors in the fall and winter to add a little zip to your winter fare. If you have tender herbs like basil in pots, take them in and put them under fluorescent light to extend their life into the winter. Herbs do well indoors if they have plenty of bright light. We’ve been growing rosemary outdoors for years here, but most of them died this past winter. I kept my rosemary in a pot this year, and plan to bring it indoors for the winter. If your herbs aren’t already potted, dig them up and pot them to bring indoors for winter.
This is also a great time to sow some garden greens in pots for the winter. Lettuce will grow indoors in a bright window or under lights, but I would prefer something like a garden cress or arugula.
They have lots of zippy flavor to add some zing to the dullness of winter. They also don’t require lots of root space, so they can live through the winter in a shallower pot that takes up less space.