Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tucking the garden in for its winter slumber

Twelve men from a work release crew were assigned to the site's garden today. Since the garden is surrounded by trees, leaves are a major problem. The work crew raked out the beds and paths and then mulched the leaves while my co-gardener and I cut back the plants in the garden. Then the work crew dumped the mulched leaves on the beds and we spread the mulch. The crew is coming back tomorrow, so the garden should be ready for its winter rest. I don't know how we would have done it without the help.

I have mixed feelings about cutting back growth in fall or the spring. I understand any diseased plants should be cut back in the fall and fall cleanup makes spring work easier. (Spring work at the site involves digging up a lot of invasive Star of Bethlehem bulbs.) If I cut back in the fall, I make sure there is a mulch layer to prevent frost heaving. On the other hand, I love pulling back the dead foliage in spring and finding tender green shoots. I also believe nature creates its own winter mulch for plants with the dead foliage. Meanwhile some seed heads create winter interest. So the site has been cleaned for the winter while my home garden remains filled with dead foliage until spring.

4 comments:

Carol said...

I struggle too with what to cut back, and what to leave in the fall. I came up with the general rule to leave things that have seed heads like coneflowers, etc. and cut back anything that just goes to mush like hostas. Seems to work, though I fight my urge to be extra tidy.

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