Vail Daily Landscape Logic column: Put the garden to bed
Veggie growth in most gardens is about done because of the cool night-time temperature and fewer hours of daylight. With less going on, it’s time to think about fall clean-up and tucking the garden in before the winter.
There may still be a few green tomatoes and beans and other veggies that can be left to ripen until there’s threat of frost. But be sure they are harvested before frost or freeze. Root veggies such as carrots and onions can stay in the ground a little while longer.
Also pay attention to foraging critters since squirrels, skunks and raccoons are getting into late-season corn, squash and pumpkins. If they’re active in your area, then it’s probably a good idea to harvest as much as you can as soon as you can.
Harvest herbs you want to preserve to use over the winter. Cut thyme, oregano, chives, basil, etc., and bring them in to dry. Store them in a cool, dry place. You can also freeze herbs in water in ice-cube trays and pop them out as needed to flavor soups and stews all winter.
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THREE TIPS FOR FALL
Before you start pitching debris into the trash or compost pile, do these three sustainable things:
• Think about what can be repurposed for fall decor. Look for interesting shapes, textures and color found in squash, pumpkins, gourds or corn stalks and use them for fall decorating.
• Harvest seeds to plant next year. They should be heirlooms in order to produce the same plant. Hybrids are a gamble because squash and pumpkins, for example, might cross over and next year’s crop could look and taste much different than this year’s harvest.
• Finally, make a map of where you planted everything this year because after the spring thaw, you may not remember exactly where you planted peas. Keeping a map is important so that crops can be rotated year to year so that the soil and garden stay fresh and lively.
COMPOSTING GARDEN DEBRIS
It’s always wise to compost debris and avoid sending it to the landfill. But there are some precautions to take. If you had blight, powdery mildew or a fungus, then put these plants into a bag in the trash and use bleach to sterilize the cages and trellises they grew on. This avoids transferring plant diseases into next year’s garden.
Also avoid composting large vines from pumpkin or squash plants, as they won’t easily decompose. Then compost remaining plant debris.
THE FINAL TUCK-IN
Add fertilizer low in nitrogen and spread 2 inches of compost over the top of the garden. And don’t worry if the compost doesn’t get down before it snows. You can pitch compost over the snow and it will still do its job. The clean-up, fertilizer and compost gives your garden the rest it needs over the winter so that your garden will wake up ready for a healthy start next spring.
Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.