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Weed It and Reap: Tucking in Your Garden Beds

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

By Victoria Rolfe / Red Hook, NY


Victoria diligently doing her garden cleanup
Victoria diligently doing her garden cleanup

Since it has been so warm this fall, some gardens may still have summer holdouts that have not quite given up, even at this late date. But we will soon experience that first frost, which brings it all to an end. Each year is unique in the wonderful world of gardening, and that’s what keeps it fresh and exciting.


It’s scary how fast the summer flew by. It will soon be time to put the garden to bed
It's scary how fast the summer flew by. It's already time to put the garden to bed!

Now is the time to do some organizing and tidying up, à la Marie Kondo, before the snow flies and covers your garden beds in a fluffy blanket of white. It is especially imperative to do a thorough cleanup of your vegetable plots. That plant debris, if left in the garden, can harbor insects and disease that overwinter (wait out the winter season) and then attack your plants next summer. If the plant material was healthy and simply died of frost exposure, go ahead and throw it into your compost heap. If it had any signs of pest or disease damage, then bag that stuff up and throw it away or put it on your burn pile if you have one.


Still some winter squash out there to pick
Still some winter squash out there to pick

I know it can be tempting to leave that last batch of weeds that have cropped up, as they will just be dying soon during the winter anyway, but don’t. It is prudent to leave your garden weed-free through the winter to save yourself even more work next spring. Those perennial weeds will be establishing a good healthy root system to spread through your garden, and if you don’t pick the annual weeds, they may set seeds to spread and sprout robustly next spring.


As for your flower beds, here you can catch a break.


It is actually nicer if you can go lightly on the fall cleanup, as there is wildlife that depends upon leftover plant debris to see it through the cold and barren winter months. Leave some seed heads (such as echinacea, rudbeckia, sedum, bee balm or sunflowers) to feed the birds and other small creatures. If you can leave a little leaf litter in a spot or two, that can also help some little garden friends such as butterflies, frogs and toads, to overwinter until next spring. But do not leave leaf litter against tree trunks for voles to hide in and do their damage during the winter months.


Seed heads of echinacea and rudbeckia left for the birds
Seed heads of echinacea and rudbeckia left for the birds

Now is the perfect time of year to enjoy the spectacular fall foliage show while you are out there working. And then after a satisfying day’s work, head inside to savor those delicious fall vegetable recipes made straight from your own garden. The rewards of gardening are truly exponential.


It’s scary how fast the summer flew by. It will soon be time to put the garden to bed
Victoria and her husband resting after a long, hard day of garden cleanup
 

Victoria Rolfe has had a love of gardening all her life, from the time she was a tiny child coveting the daffodils growing in her neighbor’s yard (and wondering why she couldn’t have them in her own), to her teenage years when she took her pot experimentation in a different direction by growing the seeds she extracted from the bag into a beautiful marijuana plant on her bedroom windowsill. She went on in her adult years to feed her family by growing a huge and bountiful vegetable garden, as well as beautifying her three-acre property with an array of ornamental trees, bushes and flowers in the magnificent Hudson Valley region of New York.


Victoria learned a great deal in the process of all this plant experimentation. She then added to that knowledge by taking courses with the Cornell Cooperative Extension to become a Master Gardener Volunteer. In her volunteer capacity, she helps to educate the public on gardening through classes and information booths, most notably at the Dutchess County N.Y. Fair each August. Throughout the summer months, Victoria is most likely to be found among the weeds, either in her own garden or those of others who actually pay her to play in their dirt and do the thing she loves best, delight in the magical world of gardening.


Victoria is not only a gardening aficionado; she is also passionate about helping people live a better life on less money. Visit her website and blog at brightfuture2budget4.weebly.com, or email her at brightfuture2budget4@gmail.com.




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