Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
December, 2011
Regional Report

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Take the time for repose on your favorite garden bench to reflect on the season.

Fall Reflection

The garden's almost finished for the year. Except for the final clean-up, things are going to sleep, the soil is preparing for its snow blanket, earthworms are burrowing deep and the landscape is heaving a sigh. I actually love this time of year simply because of the time for reflection.

Take Time to Reflect
So, number one on my list of things to do is sit awhile in the sun even though my back gets cold. I love to simply mull over in my mind what happened in the garden this year. The fall greens, broccoli, and leeks are still standing strong, but gone are the luscious fruits of high summer. I ate my last fresh tomato, and now it's the appropriate time to bring out the canned tomatoes for holiday dinners.

Perennial Clean-up
Next on my list is to do a basic inventory of what needs to be cleaned up before winter and what can be left until next spring. For instance, I snipped the dead flower stalks out of all my hostas, but I'm not going to bother pulling the leaves. I simply tuck them into the bed to serve as more organic mulch next year. Yes, this is definitely the slow gardening method of dealing with perennials.

Leave Daisies to Catch Snow
I tend to leave up all the daisy family members since they hold snow and often feed the birds in winter. They look okay, so they get to stay. However, the phlox and sage stems are not as attractive, so they get whacked down. I use hedge shears and cut the stalks into a few pieces, leaving them where they fall. Unless of course, there was a disease issue, in which case I move them out of the area.

Sheet Compost Diseased Foliage
My compost pile, like most home compost piles, doesn't get hot enough to kill weed seeds or disease organisms, so instead of composting in a pile, I sheet compost. I bury the diseased foliage and stems far from the garden. I'm returning the organic matter to the soil, but not giving the disease-causing spores the chance to reinfect my plants next year.

Compost Pile is Closed for Winter
The compost pile is ready to settle for the winter, with the final additions of the Halloween jack-o-lanterns on top. Soon the snow will cover the pile and it will sit frozen until our usual February thaw. Freezing and thawing over the winter will break everything down enough so that by next spring, all it will take is a forkful of manure, a shovelful of soil, a quick turn with the fork and I will have great compost for late spring planting.

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