This year saw a very wet summer for the region and for that reason preparing for a colder winter is imperative to the southern gardener.
Roses and azaleas thrive in this area and most of us remember to freshen up the mulch in the spring, but it’s also a good idea to go ahead and lay another cover now around anything that’s going dormant for the coming season.
If you are looking for an alternative to chips, pine straw is a wonderful answer because of its ready availability in the region and its aesthetic quality, but you can also use leaves from any fall bearing trees you have in your yard. This will give some protection against the frost to the base of your plants, but it also keeps the ground evenly tempered.
Go a further step and wrap the bottoms of your roses the same way you would with outdoor pipes. You can do this simply by stripping old t-shirts and tying them around the base of the bush up to the first offshoot. These can easily be removed in spring.
If you have existing box gardens, now is also good time to wrap them if you plan to do so. Box gardens can go covered or uncovered, but if you use them to grow more delicate plants, use a tarp to protect them from the harsher climate.
Box gardens are easy to make so if you don’t have one, they make a great fall project can only take a few hours to complete. If you don’t have an idea of what you would like to plant in the box, they also make a perfect spot for compost, so you can have a nice rich soil formulating all winter for your existing plants or the ones you want to grow next year.
If you have a spot for herbs in your garden, you will want to gather any seeds or pods they might have produced. With mints and basil, the plant will flower and the bloom itself, once dry, will be the seed you want to collect.
Most herbs, being weeds, are hearty and will return with the next year, but basil and any that you replant year after year you will want to gather for the next planting season. One could also take a cutting indoors before the cold sets in to continue growth, but this is a matter of preference and space and certainly isn’t necessary.
Winter Vegetable Gardens
After the tomato, bell peppers and other summer vegetables have stopped producing, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a vegetable garden in the winter. Some of the best crops to lay in the ground this time of year for spring harvest are broccoli, carrots, mustard, cabbage, beets, and radishes.
These can be planted a few weeks after the first frost as long as the soil is still loose enough for use. You can alternate your summer garden space to allow your winter plants to flourish.
If you don’t already, you will need a dry place, such as a shed or garage to store your garden tools for winter. You’ll want those things in good working order for the next planting season, so take this time to go back over any repairs they may need, such as replacing that rake handle or oiling shears. I find, after all, that the best precaution to take for the coming up season is preparedness.