I had a request from my sister-in-law (hi, Tammy!) to do a blog entry about fall garden cleanup.
This is nice, because it gives me a topic for a blog entry. This is ironic, because, although I can probably give you all the information you’d like about what kinds of things a conscientious gardener does in the fall to prepare for winter, I almost never do any of it myself.
Not because I think it’s not important, or at least worthwhile, but because at this time of year I almost always have more urgent things to tend to. Things like canning and freezing excess produce–things that really won’t wait. And so the fall garden chores stay at the bottom of the list, until they actually become spring garden chores.
But. . . here goes.
If you have a limited amount of time and have to pick and choose what kinds of chores you get done, I would put cutting down and disposing of peony and iris foliage at the top of the list. This is because overwintering peony foliage can harbor mildew, which will afflict your peonies all over again next year, and iris foliage can harbor iris borers, which will afflict your irises next year. Don’t ever compost peony and iris foliage–just dispose of it.
If this is as far as you get, hey, you’re about two steps ahead of me.
Of course, ideally, I would love to get all of my perennials cut off and the beds all ready for spring growth. . . but I’ve got a lot of beds and that takes a lot of time. One thing that I would leave up all winter, though, is the perennial grasses–they look pretty good all winter, and until we get about 4 feet of snow (which could be in November), they will continue to give some of what garden writers always call “winter interest.”
I’ve also been asked what I cover for the winter, and the quick answer to that is, “Nothing.” There are no divas in my garden (and there are those who find that ironic). I always say if they can’t survive the winters here then they’d better go ahead and perish because I’m not coddling them–I don’t have the time or the inclination. There are SO many wonderful perennials that are plenty hardy enough to survive a Northern Minnesota winter, I’m not about to plant things that can’t. (If you think that this is because I’m basically a lazy person, you’re right.)
So, that’s the gist of it–cut off peonies and irises and whatever else you have the time and inclination for, and let the rest of it go until spring. It will still be there waiting for you if you don’t get around to it before then.