A few hours tidying up a garden at season’s end saves a lot of unnecessary hard work for the spring, when you are anxious to plant and till some new soil! As the weather has been so unseasonably warm in many parts, if you have not yet attended to some of these chores, it’s not too late!
Prune and shape – artemisia, marjoram, oregano, lavender, thyme – don’t cut back severely, but light pruning after frost is fine. Cut off spent flower stems and dead limbs throughout the garden. Avoid severe pruning late in the fall, as winter hardiness is reduced until the cuts have healed. Woody plants should not be severely pruned within 4 – 6 weeks of the first severe freeze.
Pull up annuals and tender perennials you do not plan to over winter, placing them into your composting pile. Remove dead, damaged or diseased plants, to lessen the spread of disease to other plants in your garden now, or next growing season. This minimizes over wintering insects and disease problems.
Prior to first frost: Pull tropicals, scented geraniums, other plants you may wish to pot and over winter. (Tender perennials are best potted up in the late summer.) Cuttings might be taken to root, rather than trying to pot up and keep a well established tender perennial, or if you should lose it during the winter, trying to over winter it.
Clean up garden beds, by raking and removing leaves and trash. Transplant “orphan” herb plants you may discover along the way, to a better spot, or mark with a plant stake. Let the beds remain clean and clear for a week or so. Many insect pests and some weeds seeds are destroyed when exposed to the sun and to chilly nights.
“Pull the covers up”, by spreading 1-2″ of compost or topsoil over the garden beds; then top with loose organic mulch, which acts like a blanket. Woodchips or sawdust should not be used, as they absorb the nitrogen, necessary for plants to grow. Winter mulching helps to maintain a uniform soil temperature around the plant’s root system, while providing protection against heaving caused by the freezing and thawing of soil.
Flat, heavy stones may be used to “mulch” around lavender plants, to help keep the soil from heaving, in areas where winter is more severe. Leaves, straw or a simple cut pine bough placed around French tarragon, germander, Roman chamomile, silver and lemon thyme, winter savory, large lavender or sage plants, help provide protection. In areas of large amounts of snow or ice, teepees of twigs, sticks or bamboo may be constructed, and the leaves or straw mounded within for greater plant protection.
Rewrite or replace plant markers, as you go…
Cared for properly, many herbs (and other perennial plants!) will thrive in your garden for seasons to come! Enjoy!!!
TIP: Use clippings to make an Advent Wreath and other seasonal decor!