GARDEN COLUMN: Putting the garden to bed for winter | Home & Garden

GARDEN COLUMN: Putting the garden to bed for winter | Home & Garden

The phrase ‘putting the garden to bed for winter’ always struck me as unrealistic as there is always something happening in the garden all year round, particularly in the south.

For those of us in Orangeburg County, the soil temperature is perfect for planting spring bulbs as well as hardy flower seeds that need cold temperatures before they germinate next spring. Dormant trees can also be planted as our ground rarely freezes so hard that you cannot dig in it.

Primarily though, the main chore is to tidy the garden up which does not mean mowing or trimming everything above the ground. Many annual flowers will set seed around themselves which, like the seeds that you purposely sow, wait until next year before they germinate and if you remove the seed heads, you will not get the self-sown seedlings next spring. Many perennials as well as annuals also have seeds that birds need to sustain them through the worst of winter weather. There are some flowers though that do need to be tidied up such as chrysanthemums, which look messy if not trimmed. If you are not a tidy gardener, even trimming chrysanthemums be done anytime before new growth emerges next year – so you have plenty of time.

Leaves, particularly fallen leaves from deciduous trees and magnolias, can create a thick mass on a lawn which, if left for several weeks, can kill the turf underneath. Mow these leave to chop them into fine pieces, then use to mulch some shrubs to protect the roots. Chopped leaves generally do not form such a mass of wet, impenetrable mat over an area. Pine needles of course are great for strawberries and many other areas of the garden, but it does take time to sort out the cones from the needles before you spread them over the strawberry bed.

In my garden, I focus more on indoor events such as family visits and trips, so between Thanksgiving and New Year, I virtually ignore the garden and turn my thoughts to it again in January when I trim back the perennials particularly those that have been knocked over by wind and storms. Which brings us to another reason to leave some top growth on your perennials – and that is to remind you next spring that a plant is there and you don’t dig it up in the spring garden preparation.

So feel free to plant some hardy seeds, plant bulbs and then ignore the garden until the festivities are over – the garden, and weeds, will still be there to tend in January.

Kate Copsey is a garden author, writer and speaker now living in eastern Orangeburg County. Her book “The Downsized Veggie Garden” is available from bookstores everywhere as well as her webpage www.katecopsey.com.