Putting Your Garden to Bed

Putting Your Garden to Bed

Putting Your Garden to Bed


November has arrived and it’s time to put your garden to bed. So, you’re going to be pruning, and cutting things back, and cleaning your garden up because it’s a lot easier to pull weeds this time of year before it gets those big taproots in the ground. You’ll be raking lots of leaves, and you’re going to be tidying everything up.


You may be sowing some winter crops over your vegetable garden, like winter rye or winter wheat. Also in your vegetable garden, you’re pulling all the remaining plants and you’re composting them, or you are tilling them under where they are. It never hurts to throw down a little bit of lime, although you may want to do a pH test first. If you plant Winter Rye Wheat, then till it under in the spring. It will put nutrients back into your soil.


In your perennial bed, you want to cut back the old foliage, but you never want to yank them out. I see a lot of people pulling at old, dead leaves, but you could actually pull your plant right up out of the garden by doing that. I always cut them off rather than pull them. Then you just want to clean up your perennial bed, and if you want to add some more bark mulch or whatever, that’s a good time to do that too. Remember to leave a little well around each plant so you don’t cover over the crowns of your plants. You could lose them that way due to too much moisture.


If you have perennials such as echinacea or coneflowers, they also have nice winter interest, so you could leave those and just clean them up in the spring. They have a hard, prickly kind of seedhead, and the birds love those and will pick at them all winter long.


If your cucumbers or lettuce are a little bit on the bitter side, that tells you that you need to add some lime to your soil. That’ll sweeten them up again and would take that bitterness away on your next crop. If you had a liquid soil sweetener, it would go to the plant right away if you watered it in, and it might change the flavor quite quickly. I personally think that if you’re in the Maritimes, 75% of the time you’re dealing with acidic soil, so you can’t put too much lime down. It’s not going to ruin anything that you’re growing, so a little bit of lime once a year is a no-brainer. A lot of people will throw lime down now so it slowly goes into the soil, but it doesn’t really matter what time of year you do it. Even if you spread lime at the same time as you put fertilizer down, it doesn’t really affect the fertilizer. You’re just changing the pH of the soil.


Shrubs just need tidying up as we put them to bed. Often, you’ll see a shrub that has one branch that is growing much faster than the rest of them. You can tidy them up and just round them off, so they are all the same size. This is a great time to do that, but keep in mind, as we said on a previous blog, anything that blooms in the spring shouldn’t be pruned in the fall because you’ll be cutting off your flowers for the next season.


This is also a great time to prune your roses back. Once they’ve lost all their leaves, they go dormant for the season, and that’s when it’s safe to prune them. You don’t want to encourage any new growth at this point. We still have warm days, and if you went out there cutting your roses back before they’ve gone dormant, you can promote soft new growth that will be killed back by a frost. That goes for anything that’s deciduous that loses its leaves. It’s best to wait until they drop all their leaves before you do any hearty pruning.


Some people like to rake as soon as they see two leaves on the lawn, but you have these huge maple and oak trees around, and it’s going to take a while for those leaves to fall. If you want to rake every other day, that’s fine. That’s good exercise, but you might want to wait until most of the leaves are down. There are a couple of things you can do with the leaves. Obviously, you can bag them up and put them at the end of your driveway to be picked up. You can compost them yourself, and if you do have a lot of oak trees, you might want to run over the pile a few times with your lawn mower to chop them up. Oak leaves take a really long time to break down. Once you do that, you can use that for mulch around your plants.


One thing you need to be aware of when you’re raking up leaves is if you had a tree with some kind of fungal disease—maybe a black spot or a powdery mildew or whatever—you don’t want to rake those leaves up to use in your compost. You want to bag those leaves to put out for pickup. The towns and cities have compost piles which really heat up enough to kill those bacteria and spores. Home composting normally doesn’t, so get those leaves off your property. If you don’t clean up those leaves around your trees, what happens is, in the spring when it rains, the spores on those leaves you’ve left underneath your tree splash up onto the trunk and the cycle starts all over again.


Now that your garden has been put to bed, you can start thinking Christmas. But first,

one more reminder. It’s not too late to plant fall bulbs. It’s supposed to be a nice October/November, so you can still get them in the ground before the ground freezes!