The weather over the next week in Minnesota looks exceptional with sunny highs in the 50s, 60s, maybe a minute or two of 70s. It’s the perfect time to clean up the garden! Of course, it’s also the perfect time to take a drive along the Mississippi River to see the leaves, to visit an orchard or to go to one of Minnesota’s cute small-towns, such as Stillwater, Northfield (my hometown!) or New Ulm (breweries!).
So, let’s say you decided to enjoy the amazing colors this fall, and do a bare minimum fall garden clean up. What would that entail? Here’s our super-short checklist for garden cleanup:
Clean out your containers. Plastic pots might make it through the winter with soil in them, but if your pots are terracotta or plaster, you want to clean them out and store them away for winter. Dump the potting soil, then brush out the dirt with a stiff brush or your gloved hand. Then, wash the pots in a big tub (I use the utility tub in the laundry room) in a mixture of detergent and bleach. Rinse, let them dry and store them away until next spring.
Water. This is extremely important if you have planted new shrubs, trees or perennials. Keep giving them the equivalent of an inch a week of water until the ground freezes.
Keep weeding. Long ago, one of our Northern Gardener columnists noted that for every one weed you pull in the fall, you save yourself from pulling 10 in the spring. Set aside some time over the next few weeks to do a really thorough weeding of all of your beds.
Clean up the veg garden and any diseased plants. You don’t want to leave anything around that could spread disease into next year’s garden, and by this time of year, most vegetable gardens are harboring at least a few diseases. So, clean out the vegetable space; put down some mulch or compost, if you’d like; then, walk around the rest of the yard and cut back any perennials that look unhealthy. I like to cut back hostas because they tend to be pretty slimy if they are left standing over the winter, but that’s not required.
So, that’s the bare minimum list. Rhonda Fleming Hayes offered a longer list of fall chores in her column for the Star-Tribune and you certainly could put down mulch later, as she suggests. Terry Yockey offers a great tutorial on cleaning garden tools, another good fall job.