The white fluffy stuff is almost here – in my neck of the woods anyway.
I still have a variety of autumn flowers in bloom in my gardens and feel very blessed. My marsh roses are stunningly bright pink against a backdrop of yellow Black-Eyed Susan and purple Mums. I hope you still have colour where you are. Perhaps you live on the opposite side of the seasons to me and you’re just starting your spring pastels. This is what I’ll have in mind for the next six months!
As we near winter, I know I must do a few things to prepare. The winters here, in southern Ontario, are quite harsh and plants need care now to over-winterize. Living on the edge of a forest, I tend to do things with a more natural approach, so here’s my To Do list for autumn:
- Bring all tropical plants I want to save inside, before the temperature dips lower than double digits overnight. I’m fortunate to have a sunroom (solarium) to keep my tropical plants in over the winter. Any sunny location will do, but be mindful of plants that may be poisonous to children and pets. My new cat likes to chew my Aloe plant then throw up all over my carpet. I have to relocate my Aloe – ‘cos you know the Russian Blue furball always gets her way!
- Empty and turn over large pots such as ceramic and clay, or store them in the garden shed. Overturned ornamental and colourful pots can be used as bases for my winter arrangements.
- Skim the fish pond and let the fish slowly sleep through the winter. This year I’ve let the fish feed only on insects and duckweed, so as they become scarce the fish will naturally dose-off.
- Prog (pick up fallen branches and twigs) the forest and garden paths. I pile these on top of an area in our forest which needs clean landfill yearly. You can build a bonfire if your local bylaws allow, or if you have fewer branches maybe use them as supports for small, loppy plants. My Sedum and Aster are always in need of some assistance.
- The outdoor plants I want to over-winterize I place in a circle under a group of evergreens, larger pots to the outside to shelter the smaller ones. My Hosta have fared well using this method.
- As my tall fern dies down, I do a walkabout and take stock of any changes I want to make to the design of my gardens or the position of plants.
- If some plants are getting overgrown, I may decide to split them now or make a note to do this in early spring. In past years I’ve set these out at the end of the driveway and sold them to buy something else. They also make beautiful gifts for gardeners or house-warming gifts for someone moving.
- Ongoing through fall is the task of raking leaves. With a band of forest around two sides of our property, we have many leaves to dispose of. I like the natural way of composting, but we also leave some on the garden beds to feed the gardens in spring. I don’t do this in the flowerbeds at the front of the house – there we put wood mulch – but in my larger garden, which has a long path, the beds are larger and buying mulch would be too costly. The drawback is that decomposing leaves will feed weeds as well as plants, so you need to be ok with some wildflowers popping up here and there, or be prepared to weed a lot. Remember the place I mentioned which needs constant landfill? That’s where we put most of our leaves – on top of the progging.
- Some smaller trees will need to be wrapped in burlap for winter; otherwise they may droop and die. Some of our evergreens didn’t fare well during our ice storm last year.
- I’ve seen some burlap bags around smaller trees, with dwarf faces and pointy hats– cute!
So, if the thought of winter is already getting you ‘down’ and the prospect of five months of snow is just too much for your soul to bear, here’s a tip I use – start collecting your ideas for spring! I search garden magazines, Pinterest, gardening blogs, anything!
Enjoy the glistening snowfalls, the children’s laughter as they build snowmen and igloos, and listen for the songs of birds who are smaller by far than us – but sing in the face of winter anyway.
If you love winter and skiing and sledding (tobogganing), well – all the better. I’ll be watching you from my window 😉
Stay warm and dream on.