Gardener's Grapevine 2011.09.08

Written by David Green.

Labor Day weekend sure had some different weather, didn’t it? From hot with sweat-dripping humidity to cool sweatshirt weather, we seemed to cover it all.

Art and I spent a lot of time at the church on Saturday cleaning and prepping for winter. It led me to think about what to write this week that could help you get ready for winter and a good start to next year.

Many plants and planters have reached their peak or gone over it. As you start your fall clean up, you should think ahead to next year’s garden and planters. Most people reuse planters and some reuse hanging baskets. This is fine as long as they are prepped appropriately prior to replanting.

If you are like me in the spring, it is all about getting to the greenhouse and getting my little beauties in their pots to start announcing summer. I don’t want to be bothered with cleaning out pots and dealing with last year’s mess, I want beauty now! Well, lasting beauty and a healthy, happy, thriving plant takes more than plopping it in the same old dirty pot. 

To prepare pots, dump out all the old soil. Mix up a solution of a very small amount of dish soap and about an eighth of a cup of bleach without perfume to four or five gallons of water. Using a good stiff brush (a toilet brush works well on clay pots if the pot is big enough), scrub the inside and outside of the pot very well. Rinse with fresh water and leave pots in the sun to dry. Once the pots are dry, stack them in the shed for next spring, and you’re ready to go.

When you are cleaning your beds, check to see if any weeds are seeding out. Next year there will be a lot more of them if you leave them in the beds. Weed seed is more diligent than your desired flower seeds and will eventually take over the bed. Get rid of the nasty weeds before winter snow pushes the seeds into the earth for spring sprouting.

I like to take this time in the fall to look at what is going to need to be moved or split in the spring—which plant was an over achiever and which one is too big for its living conditions. Now is not the time to split much of anything, but it is the time to take inventory and jot down notes for spring.

As any gardener knows, plants continue to push their way up out of the earth all spring long, so it may not look overcrowded at first but it will be by summer. It’s easier to get a notebook and make a few entries, just don’t forget where you put the notebook. Mine is on the shelf in the shed next to the spade I use for moving plants. Over the next few weeks I will try to focus on fall, the garden clean-up, and winter preparations.

Congratulations to the Hewitts on East Street for winning Garden of the Month for September. They have a lovely display and always give their home such a welcoming entry year after year. 

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