Tuesday, November 13, 2012
The last week I've been concentrating on Fall clean up in the garden. It is kind of sad pulling up dead and dying annual flowers, removing the moon flower vine from the arbor, and cutting back an overgrown vine. Fall garden chores also included relocating my limelight hydrangea, and planting 3 azaleas purchased earlier this year. I also started a new compost pile in one of my 2 compost bins.
There are many pretty colors provided by the maples, blueberries, crape myrtles, dogwoods and Virginia Sweetspire as I work in the garden. When the leaves fall they need raking, unless like me you put down a pre-emergent. Raking can break the weed-shield provided by the pre-emergent. My husband mulched and bagged the leaves so I could add them to the compost pile I started. In a compost pile, the natural process of decomposition is sped up and you are left with a rich form of organic matter for your flower bed or vegetable patch. Compost also helps soil retain water.
In fact, autumn is a great time to make compost since there is a good mix of leaves, some spent plants and grass clippings. This means you will have a combination of carbon (leaves and other “brown” material) and nitrogen (grass clippings and other “green” material), which produces compost quickly. Keep the pile moist and turn it often, and you will have compost to use in your garden come spring. Or just leave it alone to decompose slowly.Don't compost any diseased plant material.
Some of my garden clean up will go on a brush pile. It will provide winter quarters for lizards, frogs, toads and small mammals such as chipmunks and rabbits, as well as bumblebees and other native bees. The leaves and other dead vegetation are like a “down comforter” for winter wildlife. You can Start your own brush pile with a layer of loosely stacked or crisscrossed branches, and add stalks and leaves on top.
When autumn approaches, I stop removing some spent flowers and let them to go to seed and only remove diseased plant parts and leave the rest standing in some areas of the garden. I don't like the sight of brown stems but like to leave some of them as cozy winter nests for wildlife. Lady beetles, butterflies and other insects will bed down among the stalks during the cold season. Siskins and other birds will dine on the seeds of sunflowers, cone flowers, grasses and other plants.
Using these clean up ideas will not only produce less of the waste clogging up landfills, you also will protect your plants and enrich your soil, while providing a winter welcome mat for wildlife.