I forget how difficult it is to keep on top of photos when Daylight Savings Time ends. Seems like I'm only home when it's dark these days.

The deep freeze is scheduled to arrive this week and stick around for at least a week. Temperatures next week will struggle to break 20. In other words, it was time to get going on my garden cleanup.

Here's how I prioritize garden cleanup in the perennial garden.

1. Pots. Pots must be cleaned out (and by this I mean dumping the soil and plants out, not actually scrubbing them, which I realize you are supposed to do but I rarely get around to) and moved into the garage to get them out of the way for shoveling and to avoid damaging them.

I finished this project up Sunday and I'm feeling much better just having that done.

The Venus dogwood gets a heap of chopped up leaves over its roots. The poles will come into play later for protection from deer.

2. Leaves. I don't like tons of leaves left sitting in the garden over winter. They form a huge frozen mat that takes forever to thaw and they never break down. So I try to get as many leaves out of the garden as I can. Then I run over them with the lawn mower a couple times before bagging them with the mower. The chopped-up leaves are then either used for leaf mold (kept in a separate pile or bins), added to the compost pile or used as a winter mulch around the roots off plants I want to offer extra protection to.

These chopped up leaves are like gold to me. I'd take as many of them as I possibly could. Mr. Much More Patient has wisened up to this and has started lobbying for a fancy new riding lawn mower (that we don't need) with a huge leaf mulching/collecting attachment that he says would work so well he'd even go collect neighbors' leaves.

The main garden is mostly cut back and ready for winter.

3. Cutting back perennials. I've read plenty of articles that suggest it is better for the health of the plants to leave them standing over winter and certainly it is good for wildlife. What it is not good for is the gardener in spring. That's a lot of work added on to an already busy season.

I split it about half and half. I like to leave ornamental grasses standing as well as sedums. I will leave a few coneflowers standing for the birds and I always leave all the spent flowers on the hydrangeas. I will also leave everything that was newly planted this summer standing. And the same goes for things like clematis that shouldn't be pruned until late winter. Although I only have about half of the gardens (half of the half of the stuff I clean up) finished, this is a project that can go on as long as I can get in the gardens, so I'll probably pick it up again over the weekend and even beyond if we get a little warm spell.

Anything I can do now saves time in spring and there is never enough time in spring.


  1. Pots: done. Leaves: done. Perennials: half done (but now it's too cold to do it!!)
    Those couple of warmer days earlier in the week meant I finally got out to do some of these tasks. I still need to wrap my hydrangeas and rhododendrons in hopes that they won't freeze and drop their buds (like last year and the year before, etc.).
    Feels good, doesn't it? By the way - snow here this morning.

  2. So it was gorgeous this past weekend. I spent it antiquing when I should've been finishing fall cleanup. And now the cold is here. Uggggh!!!! Guess I better bundle up and tough it out.

  3. I cut back the plants that were poking me when I was transplanting and redesigning. My zone is warm enough (7a) that my pots (85+) stay outside all year. I'd lose my mind if I had to move them all. But it always feels good to put the garden to rest for the year.


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