Fall's coming: time to put your garden beds to bed

| 29 Sep 2011 | 09:25

    MILFORD - What you do with your veggie and flower beds in the fall has a lot to do with how successful your garden is next spring! Generally the first frost can occur from as early as mid-September to as late as mid-October. Right after Labor Day, you should begin preparing your beds for winter. Cold sensitive bulbs, such as dahlias and gladiolas, should be lifted out of the ground and properly stored. It’s also a good time to divide daffodil and iris bulbs. Many of your perennials may need to be divided, especially lily-of-the-valleys, evening primroses, and any other perennials that are crowded. You can start new beds elsewhere in your yard or share with some of your fellow gardeners. Regarding your vegetable garden, if you still have green tomatoes pick them and allow them to ripen on your kitchen counter. Once all your fall vegetables are picked, pull all the remaining plants, lay them on the ground and give them a run-over with the lawn mower. This residue, fresh manure and compost can be added to the vegetable beds. Mix all this up with a tiller or shovel for the winter bed. You probably have one or two lawn mowings left, and most of the grass has leaves covering it. Before you rake up and bag those leaves, mow! You’ll not only cut your grass, but it will mix with the finely chopped leaves, giving you an excellent source of mulch for your vegetable and perennial beds. When you remove annuals from hanging containers, planters, or your flower beds, you can also run them over with your mower and add them to your compost bin. Straw is a good mulch to put on top of your veggie garden for the winter, and also will protect tender young perennial transplants. An inch or two is plenty - you don’t want to bury the plants so far beneath the straw that they cannot make it through the matted layers in the spring. Once you fire up your wood-stove, don’t forget that the ashes can also be composted. Continue composting all your kitchen scraps as well, except, of course, meat and bones. Not only do they take a long time to break down, the odor may attract unwanted “guests” to your compost bin. Once you’ve put your garden beds “to bed”, it’s time to relax inside and peruse those seed catalogs to make your planting list for next spring. Check your local library, newspaper garden sections, and especially Penn State Cooperative Extension for new ideas to update or add to your landscape next year. The Penn State Master Gardeners of Pike County will present a composting workshop on September 16th at FarmPlus, 111 Westfall Town Drive, Matamoras. Sign-in is 9:30 - 10 a.m.; program is from 10 to 11 a.m. This program will have multiple benefits compost to improve your gardens and landscapes and reduced waste in landfills. Pike County residents can receive a free back yard composting bin. In order to receive the free composting bin you must pre-register and attend one of the scheduled programs. There is a limit of one composting bin per household, while supplies last. Registration deadline is Sept. 14. For more information or to register, contact Penn State Cooperative Extension in Pike County by phone at 570-296-3400, by fax at 570-296-3406, or send an e-mail message to PikeExt@psu.edu. Please be sure to include your full name and surface mail address.