I have a friend who is a just a hoot to be around. Every day when he is getting ready to leave work, he tells his supervisor - "Shuttin' her down boss". I keep hearing those words ringing in my ears as I look at my garden. Here in the Northeast our temperatures have finally fallen to normal levels but this weekend looks like a warm up again. Mind you, I am not complaining. We've had a relatively warm, fall. And those warm temperatures lulled me into a false sense of security. so I kept putting off my final chores of the season.
But there's no denying that Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so this weekend I will be doing just that. Here is my list of chores and some helpful tips for you if you are going to be shuttin' her down too!
Empty all Pots and Clean Thoroughly
It's finally time to clean up all of my window box planters and front porch pots. So many times I wait too long, rush because it is cold, and end up just throwing the pots on a heap in my shed.
This year I plan to use a hose nozzle with a good pressure to rinse away most of the dirt and scrub them lightly with a bit of soapy water and a brush. Before putting them in the shed I will allow them to dry in the yard. Making sure your pots are clean and dry before storing helps to cut down on spreading any plant diseases such as powdery mildew that may be lurking about. And finishing this task now will put you one step ahead in the spring.
Clean Your Gardening Tools
Investing in the right tools can make your gardening chores go so much quicker and give you more time to relax. And taking a few moments to care for those tools each time you use them will ensure that they last you a good long time. Here are few quick things you can do to care for your tools before storing them for the winter.
- Brush and rinse your tools before storing them to remove all surface dirt. If any of your metal tools are coated with sticky sap, use turpentine to remove it.
- Dry completely before storing them. Moisture is the enemy of most metals and of wood so keeping your tools dry will ensure that blades don't rust and wooden handles don't rot
- Apply a light coating of linseed oil to bare wooden handles to protect and preserve them.
- Sharpen your cutting tools using a hone or whetstone and file the edges of your shovels and trowels to remove nicks and keep the edges smooth
- Hang all tools in a well-ventilated shed or area in your garage. Keeping them off of concrete ( which retains moisture ) will help to prolong the life of your tools.
Organize Your Shed or Garage
If you are lucky to have a garden shed, take some time to clean it out and organize it before the busy holiday season. Likewise if you have an area in your garage devoted to gardening. Hang up as many tools as possible and stack and store your newly cleaned pots. Organize fertilizers, potting soils and, discard ( safely ) any empty chemical containers. Give the shed or garage a good sweeping. Once again taking a few moments now will give you a jump start on the spring planting season.
Last Minute Garden Spruce Up
What about the garden itself, you might ask. Be sure to remove any plants that have shown signs of disease. Do not add them to your compost pile and be sure to clean any tools that touch these plants with a 10% solution of chlorine bleach and water.
Since I generally plant for multiple seasons of interest, I don't really do much dead-heading. I like enjoy the textures created by the spent blossoms and seed pods during the winter. I also leave a thin coating of leaves as a winter mulch in most of our beds. Notice, I said thin, not heavy. We also remove as many leaves as possible from the lawn as a heavy build up can kill the grass.
Load Up the Compost Pile
Add as much compost, grass clippings, and leaves and allow it to rot over the winter. Doing this and turning it a few times during the winter create nutrient rich compost that you can add and easily till in during the spring.
Hope this helps those of you in cold weather areas to 'shut down' your garden. Now it's time to go enjoy a nice hot cup of cocoa or your favorite cocktail.
In fact here's a link to one of my fall favorites the Bulleit Rye Sazerac.