Fall garden cleanup is important

Life in the garden follows the cycle of the calendar from season to season, and this is the point in the cycle where a thorough cleanup prepares the garden for the slower season of winter and the revitalization of spring. There are several basic tasks to be done:

  • Remove spent annuals from your garden. Pull them out or cut them off at ground level and leave the roots to decompose and add organic matter to the soil.
  • Cut back herbaceous perennials (such as peonies, irises, yarrows) you do not want to leave standing over the winter. Leave an inch or two of stem sticking up above the crown to help you find them in the spring. Perennials with strong stems and decorative seedheads (such as purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum) can be left standing to provide texture and form to your winter garden. Also leave perennials such as lavender, sage, Russian sage, and thyme that set next year’s growth buds above ground on woody branches. Do not cut down ornamental grasses until late winter or early spring.
  • Clear the dead plants, fallen leaves, and other debris from the “floor” of your garden. This yard waste can harbor diseases, rodents, or eggs of insects.
  • If any weeds are still growing in the garden, get rid of them now with Roundup┬áso you will not have to contend with them in the spring.
  • Cut a clean edge where landscaping and flowerbeds meet the lawn. There are lawn edging tools made just for this job, although a spade (especially with the edge sharpened) works well. Edging is easier if done the day after rain or watering, so the ground is soft.
  • If you are careful, you can use Roundup ┬áto edge the areas of your garden beds. You can also use it to eliminate grass and weeds along fencelines for a clean, neat appearance.

It may be a bit of work, but cleaning up the garden is a great way to enjoy the cooler fall weather while getting some fresh air and exercise…and you will have a rewarding feeling of accomplishment when you’re done!