Cleanup quandary

To clean or not to clean. . . that’s always the question.  The house, the garden, the
car. . . so many things to clean.  :)   I always struggle with this in regard to garden cleanup in the fall—in fact, I think I may have mentioned it before.

The garden writers always seem to talk about “winter interest”—they say you should leave your perennials up through the winter so as to provide winter interest in your gardens.
I have actually subscribed to this theory in the past—partly because it makes sense (also some of them provide food for the birds) and I want to have some winter interest in my yard, and honestly, partly because I’m lazy at heart and I’m never really in the mood to clean out my gardens. But, particularly the past few years, I’ve noticed that no matter what I leave up (or put out as decorations), it gets covered up with 10 feet of snow.  So it’s pretty difficult to get any winter interest out of that.

And the exception to the idea of winter interest is that there are some things that they say you should clean up in the fall.  For instance, peonies tend to get mildew, which will overwinter in your soil, and irises are prone to borers, which also overwinter in the irises.  So it’s a good idea to cut down peonies and irises after there’s been a frost and then just get rid of the foliage—those are two things you are never supposed to put in your compost pile.

Now, if you are a regular reader of this blog (and bless your heart if you are), you will know that I have lots and lots of irises, and also quite a few peonies.  But until last year I had never cleaned up any foliage in the fall, and I have to say I have been lucky enough to never have problems with overwintering things that will be a problem to my irises and peonies.  But I feel guilty when I don’t get around to it.

The other thing is, since I have so many irises, I sort of feel that, if I’m going to go to the trouble of cutting those down, I might as well do the rest while I’m at it.  I do like having the gardens all neat and trimmed off before the snow flies—it is such a welcome thing in the spring to NOT have all that garden cleanup waiting to be done.

But I had an idea the other day (I haven’t as yet mentioned this to Trevor). . . I was having breakfast with my mom and dad on Saturday and they mentioned that Dad had already done their garden cleanup (they only have a couple of gardens)—he mowed them down with his mulching mower.  Zip, bang, boom, and done.  This got my wheels spinning. . . suppose I could convince Trevor to just mow down all the gardens?  He’d have to avoid the shrubs, of course, and maybe one or two other things that are probably too tough or too tall. . . but wouldn’t that just make fall garden cleanup a breeze??

Does anyone else do this?  Have you ever actually mowed down iris, daylily, or hosta foliage?  (My parents don’t have daylilies or irises, and I’m wondering if they would be too tough or fibrous to easily mow.)  Am I crazy to think this might actually be an option?  (Am I just crazy?)  Please weigh in if you have an opinion or any experience with this.  I’m really
thinking about it. . . .  :)


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5 Responses to Cleanup quandary

  1. Trevor says:

    Crazy? I wouldn’t go that far…..I would be open to mowing the gardens down but have a concern that all of the mulch will get, well, re-mulched.

    • Avatar of Sandi Sandi says:

      Oh, right. . . in fact, now that you say that, I think we may actually have tossed around the idea before. I suppose the mulch would just fly everywhere. . . .

  2. Geneva says:


  3. maurice spangler says:

    I’m with you on not cleaning up in the fall. So far, after 38 years of having a couple of peonies, some irises (and lots of other perennials plus vegetables), I’ve not had trouble with the nasties you mention but, of course, next year could be my time. I’ve always appreciated the “winter interest” ploy, believing it was a good excuse for laziness in the fall. My enthusiasm for gardening returns in the spring but I’m glad to be done with the garden at this time. Mowing the irises sounds good but it really wouldn’t get the debris off the area. Nice blog, by the way. First time I’ve seen it. Maurice

    • Avatar of Sandi Sandi says:

      Thanks for the kind comments! And thanks, also, for making me feel better about lack of fall motivation. :) I think you’re right–in the spring I have so much more enthusiasm for those kinds of tasks!

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