RESISTANCE IS FUTILE! Some of us closer to the city survived the first frost just before Halloween; then we got that crazy/wonderful week of respite when we forgot about the cold and gardened like maniacs. Now we’re looking at another visit from the frost fairy this coming week. Should we do one more round of frantic cover-ups? Or should we give into the inevitable, and rip out the last of the summer crops??? I’m voting for cleanup, so I can put my energy into prepping those beds for spring. Compost the healthy stuff, but bag sad and sorry looking plant detritus and send it far from the garden. Otherwise bugs and diseases can overwinter and return to haunt you.
COLLECT THOSE LEAVES! Not only will it keep them out of Philadelphia’s landfill system, but it will give us sooo many free benefits! Mulch for overwintering beds, carbon for next year’s compost & worm bins, insulation for perennials and figs, and lots more I haven’t thought of. I like to mow mine once or twice (I don’t have a shredder) before piling 3-5 inches of them on my empty bed, not quite so thick on perennials, much thicker over newly-planted bulbs. Given the choice, I’d rather rake mine from the yard than the gutter if I’m going to put them on veggie beds.
GET READY TO BAG YOUR FIGS! I think I’ve finally figured out the best way to keep these borderline-hardy babies safer over the winter. A few years ago I planted a variety called Chicago, touted for its hardiness in our area. It was indeed hardy, but the fruit just wasn’t as good as my old Brown Turkey (not so hardy here.) So last year I collected lots of plastic bags of leaves from my neighborhood on trash day; I chose plastic because I could see inside to know there was no trash included, and I specifically shopped for smaller bags of dry leaves, since I was using them as insulating “pillows” piled around my fig trees. They did the job, kept the trees from the extreme temps, and when removed, gave me a spring source of carbon/browns for my compost.
MOW THE LAWN one last time, and rake up leaves that would otherwise smother your grass, providing a great place for mold to thrive.
ENJOY THE COLORS! Reds, golds, orange. And the blues & purples–these colors are really coming into their own this time of year with the Asters and hydrangeas and sages and even the coleus that you forgot to pinch the tops from. And you should also check out the random ephemeral flowers that are suddenly appearing on crab apples and plum and cherry trees as though in anticipation of coming snow.
Sally McCabe is Assoc. Director of Community Education at PHS, and grows stuff at two community gardens and in her backyard. She has been a faithful Primex customer since all the way back when Pops (David’s grandfather) was still around.