Here in the Northeast, we have collected our bounty from the summer and fall harvest. Our vegetable gardens have given all they can give. Peppers are still producing (as of early October) and a few tomatoes, with a few blossoms left on the bean plants. Our pumpkins have been picked and carrots dug up. Now, what?
Cooler Weather Gardening
Some veggies do well in the cooler temperatures of fall. These include kale, lettuce, and broccoli. But soon there will be a killing frost and the plants will be done.
Once frost has hit, the vegetable garden will be cleaned out and rototilled again. Any available compost can be mixed in the soil and the garden will winter over until next year.
How To Handle Flower Beds
The flower beds are different. After frost, you can cut back perennials, clear out annuals and debris. You can add a little mulch and wait until spring. You can also wait until spring to do flower bed cleaning. Some flowers’ seed heads look interesting. They also provide shelter and a food source for birds. Of course, adding barriers to thwart hungry deer and rabbits are a necessity around some plants. Some young trees like forsythia and burning bush might need protection. Any falling leaves add mulch. Leaves also provide a thermal barrier against (sometimes) harsh Northeastern winters.
Here in the Northeast, we average around 120” of snow per year. Snow pack is a very good thermal barrier against cold temperatures and can protect root systems. Roses benefit from this protection. Although bitterly cold temperatures for extended periods of time can kill roses. Even with snow pack bitter cold can kill the plant.
Handling Potted Plants
You can try to extend your growing season for potted annuals by covering the plants with sheets or blankets. However, there comes a time when the temperature regularly stays below freezing and the plants need to come in. Many annuals will not make it through a long winter indoors. Less humidity and not enough sunshine can kill some plants.
Heated greenhouses help some annuals that can be cut or divided to make new plants. Geraniums and begonias are a few plants that reproduce this way. Because a greenhouse is still on my wish list, I bring my plants into the garage for winter. The garage is unheated, but temperatures generally stay above freezing most of winter. If watered periodically, some survive.
Supplying some heat may bring better success. I have had good luck with geraniums, spikes, and even annual dahlias this way. Even those appearing in rough shape in spring will come back with regular watering. Annual begonias can come back also. This saves a little for the next spring planting and on your wallet.
As fall wears on, there are leaves to be raked and summer deck furniture to be put away. We put up the Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations. There is a bittersweet moment when you realize the chores have been done. The fall wind rustles the trees and you look around to realize all that is left to do is wait until spring.