As I explained at the beginning of the month, I tend to be fairly haphazard when it comes to gardening. I plant a whole bunch of things, without spending a whole lot of time considering things like soil pH, drainage or pest control. I do try to find sunny spots for my sun-loving plants, but even there I’m not spending a whole bunch of time agonizing over the decision. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my results are hit or miss. Some years, I get a bumper crop of tomatoes or cucumbers or lettuce. Some years, I get a total of three tomatoes from five plants, and all my cucumber seedlings are eaten by slugs. I’d like to change that, though, so this fall I’m getting serious.
I did some reading on how to prepare your garden for winter. It turns out I’ve missed the fall window for applying pest control measures like nematodes, so at this point I’m thinking ahead to next spring, and how I’ll battle those dastardly slugs. I have my eye on a slug trap that you fill with beer, and some Diatomaceous earth to put around my fragile seedlings. I also have my eye on some proper seed starting trays with domed lids, so that my little plants get off to a better start. The bigger they are, the harder it will be for a pest to eat them in one fell swoop.
While it’s too late for pest control now, I have been spending time out in the garden. I cleared out all the weeds from my garden beds, and in the process I found some unexpected bounty. All of my potato plants died in early summer, so I’d given up on the potatoes. However, when I was weeding my potato bed I uncovered a small potato. Some serious digging turned up more than two dozen small potatoes. It’s fewer than there should have been if the plants had done well, but at this point it’s kind of like getting a free lunch, so I’m thrilled.
Once the beds were cleared out, it was time to think about mulching. You want to protect your garden over the winter, so that valuable nutrients – or the soil itself – doesn’t wash away. I’d heard that leaves work well. Plus – bonus points – they’re free! For a couple of weeks I carried a couple of nylon bags in my pocket when I walked Hannah to school and back, and stopped to collect leaves. They were wet and dirty, since it’s November in Vancouver, and kind of heavy to carry. I probably looked a little funny to passersby, carrying dripping bags full of leaves. But in the end I laid a good layer of mulch down on my garden, so I’m the one laughing.
The last item on my list – and the one I am most intimidated by – is pruning. I asked around on Twitter and heard back from a reliable source who lives nearby and hence understands the local climate. She told me to wait until early spring, because it’s better for the plants and the birds. Since that gets me off the pruning hook, you don’t have to ask me twice. I did a little Googling, though, and the one exception may be the out-of-control hydrangea in front of my house, so I’ll be tackling that shortly.
I’m not sure if my efforts to winterize my garden will make a difference come spring, but I feel like I’ve done what I could. One thing I have learned for sure over my years gardening is that even if you plan perfectly, you’re still at the whim of nature. This is why experienced farmers can have failed crops. Some years, the weather just doesn’t cooperate, or things go sideways for another reason, and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. If I hold up my end of the bargain, though, I’ll at least be giving my garden a fighting chance.
Do you garden? Have you taken any steps to winterize? If you have any tips, I’m all ears!