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Garden Cleanup Tips
by Jodi DeLong
by Jodi DeLong


Writing about plants and gardening is just one part of Jodi¹s professional writing business. She¹s been a garden columnist for the Atlantic Co-operator for over five years, and last year was invited to do a biweekly column in the Halifax Chronicle Herald, Canada¹s oldest independent daily newspaper. In addition, she writes regular garden features for Saltscapes magazine, Manitoba Co-operator, Grainews, Rural Delivery, and has also had various feature articles in Canadian Gardening, Cottage Life, Complete Canadian Gardener, Aquascapes Lifestyles, and East Coast Gardener. Jodi sits on the National Board of Directors for PWAC, the Periodical Writers Association of Canada, as Atlantic Regional Director, and is also a member of the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia. When she¹s not writing, she¹s gardening, reading about gardening, photographing gardens, thinking about gardening, or ignoring the housework.

October 5, 2008

Just as we spring clean our homes each year, our gardens benefit from a fall cleaning and bedding down before winter sets in. A few simple tasks done in the fall will help shrubs, perennials and other plants to slumber easily and wake healthy come spring.

When a serious freeze is expected, water your garden shrubs and plants thoroughly, so that roots will be moist through the winter. Don't plan on doing hard pruning in fall, as this can stimulate new, soft growth which is unlikely to harden off before winter. Construct wind breaks or sun screens around plants predisposed to winter damage, such as roses. Drive four wood stakes around the plant, wrap with burlap and staple at each corner. If a bush is particularly large, you can create a V-shaped shelter on two sides, to protect from prevailing winter winds.

In the flower and vegetable gardens, cut off old flower stalks, except of those enjoyed by birds (coneflowers, Sedum, thistles, etc) and remove any diseased plants. These should always be removed and burned, not added to compost piles, so diseases won't overwinter or insect eggs won't hatch early and infect your plants next year.

Some people divide and transplant perennials in fall, but in our sometimes erratic climate young and tender plants stand a better chance of establishing in spring. It is a good idea to mark places where seedlings or offshoots of perennials are, so that you can find them easily next growing season. Some gardeners also draw rough sketches of their current gardens at this time, so that when dreaming through seed and plant catalogues, they have some idea of what they want to put where. Despite our best intentions, we always seem to buy more seed and plants than we said we would!

After cleanup, allow the gardens to dry and air out for a week or so before adding some compost and then applying a protective winter mulch, such as straw or hay. This is best applied after a hard freeze in late fall, so that perennials will not be affected by freezing and thawing soil. Too many freeze and thaw cycles and perennials can get heaved out of the ground, resulting in root damage and possible loss of the plant. Don't put the mulch hard up around crowns or stems of plants, which could result in rot.

Putting your gardens to bed doesn't take a great deal of work, and brings great benefit in the spring when we have so many chores to do. It also gets us outside on some of the last nice days of fall, before we retire to firesides and seed catalogues to get us through to spring.

Spring Colours at Christmas

The approach of the Christmas season brings to mind thoughts of Poinsettias, Christmas cacti, and other festive plants. But you can also have daffodils, narcissi and other bulbs flowering at this time, through a process known as forcing bulbs. Bulbs are subjected to weeks of cold and then brought into the normal house environment, which causes them to think it's spring and begin to grow and bloom.

You can purchase prepared bulbs (which have undergone their 3 moths or more of cold treatment) at most quality garden centres. Use only top quality, large bulbs and don't mix different species in a pot. For a six inch pot, you can plan on 5-6 daffodils or tulips, three hyacinths, or two dozen crocuses. Loosely fix the pot with good quality potting soil and plant the bulbs with the tops still showing.

Water them thoroughly and keep in a sunny, moderately cool room, at about 65 degrees F. Remember not to let the soil become dried out until the plants are growing and budded out, or they will not flower well. To keep the blooms looking fresh and lovely longer, move to a cool location at nights. When the blooms are spent, you can allow the foliage to die back and plant the bulbs outside, but they will not flower again until the following spring.



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