This year my goal is to put the garden to bed earlier than usual so I can get to my indoor projects. It seems as if I am ahead but… that remains to be seen. Using a gas-powered trimmer, I cut down most of the perennials. Well, truth be told, it was too heavy for me to use on the entire garden, so I brought out the electric trimmer as well – much easier to manage. The trimmers shorten the time it takes to cut each plant by hand, although I do go back and clip the woody stems shorter since the stems can split when using the gas or electric powered trimmers; I cut them 6 inches above the ground and hand trim later. For years I foolishly cut down the garden with my Felco pruners, until I realized how labor intensive putting the garden to bed was without an electric or gas powered trimmer. I rushed out and bought both!
The sedum, rudbeckia, echinops and solidago remain in the garden for the birds to feast on during the winter. After attending several garden lectures this past winter, I learned what an important food source solidago is for birds returning in the spring. In previous years I cut all the perennials back except the sedum; they were left to add texture to the winter garden. They look wonderful when white with snow.
Every year I collect seed to use the following season. Can’t tell you how my times seeds have fallen out of my pockets, as I take off my gardening garb or carry my clothes to the laundry room. Sometime I even find seeds in the dryer. Amazing they managed to stay in my pocket through the wash, rinse and spin cycles. Occasionally I find them scattered on a counter and wonder what plant they were harvested from! Hence, the note to you and to self: “LABEL all collected seed otherwise you might not be able to identify it at a later time.”
Fall garden chores:
1. Collect any seed you want to save for next year before cutting down perennials. Remember to label the seeds and date the package.
2. Leave perennials that can feed the birds in the fall, winter and spring, such as sedums, rudbeckia, echinops, solidago and berry bushes.
3. Consider using an electric or gas powered hedge trimmer to reduce the time it takes to cut down the perennials.
4. Perennials with woody stems cut to six inches, then with hand pruners finish cutting them to the ground to keep the stalks from splitting.
5. Compost the plant material that is healthy. Discard bug infested material in the trash bin.
6. Soak in a hot bath at the end of the day after hauling away plant material to the compost area.