Af­ter frost, a gar­dener’s work is not fin­ished

The Expositor (Brantford) - - WEEKEND - DEN­ZIL SAWYER MAS­TER GAR­DENER Den­zil Sawyer is a free­lance writer and a Mas­ter Gar­dener.

The first frosts of au­tumn end the life of the flow­ers that have lit up your gar­den beds.

In­stead of colour, all that can be seen are the life­less tops of the plants, an­nu­als or peren­ni­als. The for­mer are less hardy and can be sim­ply pulled out and bagged for re­moval by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. One can ex­pect the peren­ni­als to come back next spring and should be clipped off for bag­ging in the same way. It is pos­si­ble to com­post all this plant mat­ter but, un­like leaves, it takes a lot longer to break down in us­able ma­te­rial; at least, that has been my ex­pe­ri­ence.

By the time the yard is cleaned up and the veg­etable gar­den is seen to as well, all the leaves should have been piled up to make com­post. Maple leaves make great com­post but I like, if pos­si­ble, to mix in leaves from other trees, such as oaks. This makes a lighter and a more nu­tri­tious mix.

The first killing frost is eas­ily rec­og­nized and with it there is a time to as­sess the grow­ing year just past and ready the yard for the next. It is al­ways good house­keep­ing to get the yard cleared and the peren­nial beds ready for the snow­fall. Cut the stalks down but not to the ground. It is use­ful to have all the snow that falls held over­win­ter. If pos­si­ble a mulch should be spread across the flower beds once the soil is frozen hard. If the sur­face of the ground thaws and freezes then it causes the soil to heave and this af­fects the plants. A loose mulch of four to six inches, com­posed of straw, is most prac­ti­cal. Hay is an al­ter­na­tive but it is more likely to mat down.

The rose bushes like­wise need mulching. I have found that a cone of a mix­ture of soil and peat moss works well if built up around the stalks. In some cases a plas­tic col­lar may be pur­chased for this.

If you have them, wood ashes may be spread over the flower beds. It is a source of potash, in other words, potas­sium, which raises the pH.

Be­fore the ground re­ally freezes it is best to re­mem­ber to wa­ter the ev­er­greens. Some ev­er­greens may need pro­tec­tion against snow­fall. Up­ward point­ing branches can be weighed down by wet and heavy snow. If pos­si­ble these ev­er­greens will sur­vive the win­ter if rope or other ma­te­rial is tied around them.

The veg­etable patch can look af­ter it­self. Frozen ground re­sults in a break­down of the soil par­ti­cles. Some veg­eta­bles ac­tu­ally im­prove with frost. If there are any parsnips, they will get sweeter. Pota­toes should be har­vested be­fore there is a deep frost.

Be­fore ev­ery­thing freezes, I rec­om­mend clean­ing your gar­den tools. A thin coat­ing of oil will pre­vent rust and present us­able equip­ment when spring comes. Af­ter all, you likely wash the dishes af­ter your meals in prepa­ra­tion for the next. You can also sharpen the edges of cut­ting tools and do reg­u­lar main­te­nance.

Do not for­get to bring in or clean clay or ce­ment pots or urns. Frost is an un­for­giv­ing agency.

In­doors, the gar­dener has dif­fer­ent chal­lenges. Stop fer­til­iz­ing the plants in your house. Wa­ter them but do not drench ev­ery­thing as growth has es­sen­tially quit.

If you have pur­chased an amaryl­lis bulb get it started in De­cem­ber for the hol­i­day sea­son. The bulbs are ac­tu­ally hip­peas­trums, but that is re­ally no mat­ter. Af­ter bloom­ing I have al­lowed the leaves to stay green un­til yel­low­ing and then trimmed them and set them aside for next spring when I plant them in a sunny spot. They will grow well there and can be used the fol­low­ing win­ter.

POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Columnist Den­zil Sawyer sug­gests clean­ing your gar­den tools to pre­pare for next sea­son.

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