Have you tucked your gardens in for the winter yet? It doesn’t have to be a complex process and there is still plenty of time during October and the first couple of weeks in November to get some of the basic things done, so the gardens will be healthy and attractive in the spring. This can be an enjoyable experience in the fall - particularly if you simply grab an hour or two at a time to do it. A few hours spent here and there on beautiful fall days will guarantee that you will enjoy your garden sooner in the spring; with less (or none) of the messy work to do then.
Cut everything back: Trim back all your perennials; only about two or three inches of most plants need to remain in place. Then pull out and toss any annuals that you haven’t brought into the house. Trimming the perennials back will help keep the garden free of fungus and bacteria from plant stalks that will begin to rot in place over winter. It also helps for a great looking garden area in spring.
Depending on your garden space and what you have planted, you may actually be able to use a weed-eater to accomplish this. Of course some garden designs may not allow it but it is often an option. Just check things out ahead of time and be sure you won’t be wiping out something that doesn’t need to be cut back.
Weeding: This of course keeps the weeds from running rampant in the spring before you can get out there to control them. I do like to do the weeding after I trim back the perennials. I just find it easier and cleaner to work that way.
Compost: After the weeding is completed is a great time to add compost or manure to your garden bed. The nutrients will be at work in the garden long before you can get out there in the spring.
Mulching: After the ground freezes add mulch. Adding a good strong layer of mulch too soon may delay the ground from freezing and killing disease-causing bacteria.
Transplanting: You can still transplant that plant or shrub you wanted to move, or add a new one. There is still a little time for them to get settled and send out new roots to absorb nutrients before the ground freezes. I personally don’t like to wait past the first week or two in October. Also I like to be sure that I water a newly transplanted plant or shrub heavily for the first week or so to help the roots acclimate as soon as possible. However, watering too late will not be healthy for the plant/shrub of course, due to freezing. As with all things in Maine, it depends on the type of weather we are having; so we need to factor that in.
Other garden duties: Don’t forget to get your watering hoses inside as soon as you’re done watering any newly planted plants/shrubs. Your garden décor should be taken inside as the winter may break many outside garden decorations; at the very least most will be weakened by winter exposure.
There. You are now ready to look out of your window in late winter/early spring and see a clean, newly emerging garden . . . ready for you to enjoy!