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Posted on Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

5 quick ways to put the garden to bed for winter

By Jim and Janice Leach


A hedge of marigolds helps keep the leaves on the garden

Janice Leach | Contributor

“Putting the garden to bed” is one of my favorite gardening phrases, although not really my favorite task!

Fall clean up is part of what the experts call “good garden sanitation practices,” a term that always seems a bit fancy and clinical for our rather rustic yard. A few easy processes, however, make a big difference in the overall health of the beds and the situations we’ll face in the spring.

If you’ve been putting off closing down the garden, you might want to make time for a few quick and easy projects to put the garden to bed.

Fall clean up is a task where the 20 Minute Garden philosophy can make a significant impact. No, you can’t do it all in 20 minutes, but even 20 minutes of work put in any of these tasks will have a positive impact on the garden.

1. Rake up the leaves. Leaves left on the lawn cut off the sunlight and hold moisture, which can lead to diseases. We pile them on our vegetable beds, where they will slowly break down over the winter and add organic matter to the soil. We also bag up a half a dozen yard bags to store in the barn; they get nice and dry there, and we use them as mulch in the spring.

2. Pull weeds. Yes, the Michigan winter is going to kill most of the weeds very soon, but their seeds will linger in your soil and get a nice headstart come spring. Pull whatever you can see and compost them or put them in the yard waste for pick-up.

3. Clear out the vegetable garden. With the foliage dying back, you can see more clearly what harvest was missed-- each soggy vegetable a hundred seeds ready to go. Save yourself the trouble of weeding out those hundreds of seedlings next spring.

4. Add compost. Spread finished compost on perennials, vegetable beds or the lawn to enrich the soil. You can also dig in composted manure or other organic matter to the vegetable garden beds so it will be broken down by spring.

5. Remove any diseased or suspicious plants or leaves. Do not add these to your home compost. You can trim foliage or stalks on healthy perennials or leave them, according to your taste. Some plants add winter interest to the garden when covered with snow.

If Thursday’s prediction of snow comes true, this might be the best window of time to tuck in the garden.

Janice and Jim Leach tend a backyard plot in downtown Ann Arbor, where they try to grow as many vegetables and other plants as possible. For the last four years, they've published gardening tips, photos and stories at their 20 Minute Garden website.



Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 7:01 p.m.

As garden season passes us by I'd just like to say thanks for your articles, they are very nice to read.

Jim and Janice Leach

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 10:37 p.m.

Thanks for your kind comments! We plan to keep posting throughout the "off season" on garden planning and other related topics.