Fall is the time to prepare for winter with mulching and pruning. The fallen leaves and dying annuals are not for the trash. The organic material is terrific for the garden.
More people should use organic matter in their beds rather than trashing their yard waste. It has to be raked or mowed, so why not use it as mulch.
It is impossible to put too much organic matter into the soil. Fall is a good time for many reasons. One good reason is all of the materials that you want are there for free, leaves and dying plants.
A good suggestion is piling up leaves, grass clippings and dead plants and going over them with a mulching mower, then putting them into the garden bed. This will shred the material into tiny pieces, and it can be left on as a top dressing. Put on two or three inches. If you have mulch already down, rake that back, apply to the surface the shredded organic matter and then return the mulch on top. It is a huge benefit to put a few inches layered on your garden beds.
The very best thing a gardener can do to better their soil is add organic matter. It increases the water capacity of the soil. While the minerals accumulate, it binds clay particles into larger sums, improving aeration and drainage. Successful gardening always begins from the ground up.
Working with mulch
Add mulch after you have cleared away any unwanted waste from the base of the plant. It is also best to wait until the ground is frozen.
Garden advice when less than 5% of our soils are composed of organic matter.
• Apply 25 to 50 pounds of compost per 100 square feet yearly.
Mulching over the winter works as an insulating blanket. If you plant perennials this fall without mulching, the bald soil will thaw during the day and freeze at night, producing movement that can kill small plants.
Rose gardeners should not be in a big rush to mulch this fall. Putting down a layer of mulch now will do more harm than good. Fall freezes will not hurt the roses, so it is best to wait a few weeks for the soil to freeze before putting down a layer of your winter mulch to any rose.
Prune or not to prune
Some perennials, such as peonies after their leaves have died, need to be trimmed. The iris is open to diseases and rotting and is better off if its leaves get trimmed back.
Plants, such as broad leaf evergreens, like holly and azaleas, are inclined to feel winter dryness and are much better left uncut.
This is the perfect time to clean up after the garden so that you are ready to start again in the spring.