Garden clean up begins

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

As I write this article, we are anticipating much-needed rain. The soil is dry and plants that are new need it desperately.

Plants should not go into the winter months on the dry side. If we don’t get sufficient rain to saturate the root area of plants, think about additional irrigation just in case it stays dry.

I see newly planted trees and shrubs stressed with dead branches which is a direct result of lack of water. Of course, there could be other factors, but water is a huge one.

Next spring, when these plants break dormancy, you will start to see dead branches here and there. Hopefully the root system doesn’t suffer too much, and plants can recover.

Don’t let this happen by paying attention to the amount of water we get in these next few weeks and into November.

Typically, winter provides a bit of moisture through snow cover and rain. But if it doesn’t, you know what to do!

It’s a good time to look at your flower beds and perennial and vegetable gardens and do winter prep if you haven’t already. I like to do mine as plants start to look bad or are killed by a frost.

Annual vegetables should be removed from the garden as they can harbor insects and diseases. Perennials vegetables such as rhubarb and asparagus can be left alone and cut back in March.

In the annual flower beds, remove annuals that have been killed by a frost. Some like to leave these plants standing until spring to provide cover for the beneficial insects. This is OK too.

I have so much to do around my landscape that I have to remove all my annuals in the fall. I have, however, started to just cut them back to the ground as opposed to pulling the plants.

The roots eventually decompose and of course, the soil that they are planted in adds a small amount of organic matter to help. Yes, when I plant in the spring there still may be some stems and roots but I either work around them or pull them out before planting.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

In the perennial garden, I cut plants back as soon as they look bad or detract from the garden. I haven’t cut anything yet, but when we get a good freeze, the Hosta are usually the first to go.

I truly believe that people close gardens way too early in the fall and don’t get a full season’s enjoyment out of them! Hosta and daylilies have beautiful fall colors.

Social media tells us to leave the duff and debris as well as the stems in the perennial bed for pollinators and beneficial insects to overwinter. I do this, sort of.

I have a big enough perennial garden that I will leave enough woody stems for native bees. I also have black locust trees and I don’t rake up these leaves as they are small enough to add to the garden.

However, I will cut back many perennials, so I don’t have to do as much in the spring. This is OK too!

Remember, it’s your garden and you can do what you want while at the same time, doing your best to help the pollinator plight!

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at

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