Well, I guess I have to start facing up to the fact that summer never happened and will not happen for this year. I guess I will have to start putting my garden to bed for winter. Everyone has their own philosophy regarding this topic and all ideas have their merit. Make your choice based on the time you have. A few simple basics will have your garden set and almost ready to go for the next spring.
Depending on what the containers are made of is how I determine what I will do with them. If they are a heavy plastic, I will remove the by now frostbitten annuals and add them to the compost heap. I will leave the soil in the container and group them together in an out of the way sheltered part of the yard.
If the containers are clay, I will remove all plants and soil and keep in the garden shed. Clay containers left outside with soil can expand and contract with moisture during the winter which could cause them to crack.
-perennial garden beds:
I tend to just leave the perennials alone. I like to leave the seed heads for the birds. I also find that the stems give the garden some structure and interest over the winter. I will remove any stems or leaves with disease or fungus or mildew. Don't put those in the compost heap and remember to clean your pruners, afterword.
-vegetable garden beds:
I do tidy my vegetable garden. I remove the tomato plants and will add some sand and compost. I will trim the herbs and bring the cuttings in to dry for the winter. I will place any leftover plants in the compost heap. You can leave your carrots and other root vegetables as you may be able to dig up during the warmer parts of winter. I still continue to snip my thyme during the winter. I leave my parsley to seed itself for next spring, ( if I'm lucky).
-lawn/aerate and add concrete sand:
With the lawn, I aerate, add sand and if I have any I will add lawn seed and some organic fertilizer. I will rake it into the lawn, (actually, I get one of the boys to look after the lawn) and the lawn is done.
-taking cuttings of annuals and herbs:
I have a potting room in my basement with lights and watering trays. I try to take in cuttings of my ivy geraniums and any other annual that did really well. I will root them and then plant them in pots as they grow. I will continue to take cuttings of the cuttings and hopefully by the next spring I will have enough again to fill some containers! I will also pot up some herbs to bring inside for winter, too. The herbs I will leave by a sunny window in the kitchen.
I will also collect seeds from the petunias and marigolds, nigella (love-in-a-mist), and balsam. I will make sure that the seed is completely dry before placing in a sealed paper labeled envelope. Come next March, I will have seed to plant. One plant produces quite a bit of seed. Pick the plant you liked the best and allow the seed head to fully mature. It will be brown and dried. Please take note that with all the hybridizing that not all seed will produce the same colour plant. In that case, take cuttings.
-cleaning tools: bleach and a container with sand and oil:
CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN! I cannot stress the importance of cleaning your tools. They will last longer and not transfer disease from plant to plant. To disinfect, add one part bleach to 10 parts water and spritz on the tools. Find an old wide mouth container. Add in a bag of concrete sand, (yes, I like concrete sand) and then pour in some used motor oil. At any time when you need to clean your shovels, spades, pruners or whatever tool, simply dip the tool into the bucket and the sand will clean and lubricate as will as keep the edges sharp! Rub any wood handles with oil to keep from drying out and cracking.
One of the last things I do is to walk around the yard and gather up any garden decorations which cannot take the winter. Clean the dirt off and place in one container in the shed. This way they are all together for next spring.
I always find it a little sad putting the garden to bed. However, one of the best things about gardening in the winter is the seed catalogues which come out late winter. It's also a good time to look at the pictures taken over the past season and plan for the next!
Gardening is a continual work of art, enjoy it in all it's seasons!