The Late Fall Garden

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mint cuttings

I was looking out my front window on this grey cold day, trying to find inspiration for writing this week’s article. We have gotten our yard ready for winter, so that isn’t on my agenda.

I cleaned out the vegetable garden last weekend, cutting down asparagus stocks and pulling weeds. I dug up the last of the potatoes, planted my garlic and harvested some hardy herbs. The only thing left growing is a kale plant that thrives in cold weather. I will keep harvesting leaves for quite awhile yet. They end up in smoothies, soups and stir fries. It’s such a versatile plant!

This morning I cut a few stems of Mojito mint to add to my smoothie plus a few extra. I stripped the lower leaves off and set the cuttings in a small vase of water to root. I will change the water frequently and hope to have rooted cuttings to plant in a few weeks.

I am lucky to have a big south-east facing window in my kitchen. I keep fresh herbs growing on the counter in front of the window all winter long. I would rather root cuttings than bring entire plants indoors. I have limited space in this spot, so bringing big pots inside isn’t feasible.

I may still dig out one parsley plant, wash its roots and put it in fresh potting soil. I have a space on the floor in front of the French doors that leads to my front deck. Now that cold weather has come, we don’t use that entrance as much. That spot gets plenty of winter sunlight.

I didn’t catch my basil before the cold hit. It was too sad to being indoors. I plan to buy a fresh pot and add that to my kitchen herb collection. It doesn’t last the entire winter but fortunately you can still find basil plants at the grocery store occasionally throughout the winter.

Next fall I will make a point of re-potting a Columnar or Blue African Basil plant in early September to bring indoors. Either of those two varieties are much better at surviving the winter indoors that the traditional large-leafed Italian basil.

When I did the final yard cleanup, I made a point of leaving many areas of my yard undisturbed, so native pollinator insects have a winter home in leaf littler. However, there are a few areas we clean up so winter snow removal isn’t problematic.

We rake the leaves out of our long driveway and parking area. We also clear off all the walkways around the house. I also cut back some of the perennials that overhang the driveway and walkways, All the other bed I leave alone. The leaves from all the maple, birch and oak trees surrounding our house fall into the gardens. Perennial foliage collapses as cold weather progresses and the insects have a natural habitat for the winter.

I am still getting quite a few inquiries about pruning. I don’t prune any of my shrubs at this time of year. Now that the leaves have fallen, I enjoy seeing the dried flower heads on my various hydrangea shrubs. Those bushes, along with ninebark, weigelas and hardy roses, all get appropriate pruning in early April, when I can get out to the garden.

Pruning at this time of year can be done if you are worried about long lanky growth being broken by winter snow load. However, keep in mind that pruning cuts made now won’t heal before winter sets in. You may get some tip die-back that will have to be cleaned up next spring.

As a word of caution, DON’T prune lilac, magnolia, azaleas, or rhododendrons now! Their flower buds for next season are on the end of the newest growth. Those are all pruned next year immediately after flowers fade.

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About Me

I began my journey in horticulture in 1982 after graduating from the Humber College Landscape Technician program. At that time, I lead a talented crew of landscapers, taught evening courses in horticulture and had my own landscape design and consulting business. Then I ventured into the garden centre world. I’m lucky enough to be leading the friendly and knowledgeable team at New North Greenhouses. 

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New North Greenhouses

719 Airport Road

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario P6A 5K6

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