Putting the Garden to Bed

Preparing your gardens for winter will bring benefits next spring.

Vegetable Garden.  

Remove any plants that have quit producing. Any with tomato blight or other diseases, throw away or burn them, don’t put them in your compost bin.  Lettuce, kale, spinach, chard, carrots, and radishes can often be left producing well after the first light frost.

Installing Hoops

If you plan to put covers on your raised beds to extend the growing period or continue to grow cold hardy vegetables through the winter, you can put up your PVC hoops and secure the row covers on top but leave the sides open for ventilation as long as it is warm.

Securing the Covers

With the first frost prediction, let the sides of your covers, or apply plastic and secure it. Watch the weather, in case you have some freeze and thaw periods before winter sets in really hard. You don’t want to cook your plants with too much heat. This is more likely with plastic covers than fabric row covers.

Annual Flowers

Pull out your annual plants as they begin to wither or whenever you decide to prepare your beds for winter. With some you can say, “that’s enough, I’m tired of watering you!” These plants can go in the compost pile if there are no signs of disease.

Perennial Flowers

Fall is the perfect time to divide perennials or to plant new ones in your garden. If planted now or for the next few weeks, they will be able to put down good roots for next year. And, nurseries and garden centers have great sales now. Even if a plant looks like it’s on its last legs, it can be nurtured back to health with good soil and water. Divide any perennials that are overgrown. Dig them up, cut them apart and replant.

Winter Protection

For the garden beds that will be fallow all winter, walkways, and perennial beds, cover with about one inch of shredded leaves and put a nice layer of clean straw over that. This will return nourishment to the soil and keep weed seeds from getting ahold in your beds and walks. You can also plant a cover crop to be turned over in the spring.


Preparing Garden Tools for Winter

If you have good garden tools, they will last you for years if you take the time to clean them properly before storing them away for the winter.

Digging Tools

Hose away any dirt or debris and scrub the metal with a stiff wire brush if necessary. Now is a good time to sharpen dull blades, also. Wipe down the metal parts with a little vegetable oil and allow to dry.

Lightly sand any rough wooden parts and wipe down with linseed oil. If you frequently leave them out in the yard when working, consider painting the wood bright colors so you can see them in the grass.

Hang, place in a rack, or stack out of harms way, shovels, rakes, hoes, and other such tools. Place them in an area where they won’t pose a trip hazard.

Pruners, Loppers, and Trimmers

Ideally, you have cleaned your small garden tools after each use to prevent transferring any disease to other plants. At the end of the season, take them apart and give them a thorough cleaning and oiling before reassembling and putting them away in a dry area where they won’t be exposed to moisture.

Hoses and Faucets

Disconnect all hoses from the faucet and drain completely. Roll up, straightening out any kinks, and secure by tying around the entire top with string or rope. Hang in a shed or garage.  Protect your outdoor faucets from freezing with a fiberglass hood made for that purpose.

Lawn Mowers

Run the mower until the fuel is used up. Leaving fuel in the container over the winter can degrade the plastic and rust any metal parts. Clean and inspect blades and sharpen as needed. Wipe down with oil to protect from rust. Remove any dried grass from the blade chamber, and remove the battery and spark plugs. Store in a dry place.

Plant Containers

Remove any annual or dead plants from pots and put the plants and soil in the compost pile. Remove the top one-third of soil from large containers. You can top off with new potting soil in the spring. Thoroughly clean empty containers with a very mild bleach solution and set out to dry. Store in a dry area out of the weather.

For some interesting ideas for tool storage, check out this Pinterest page.


Create Spots of Interest in Your Landscape

It’s all well and good to have a beautiful lawn, but it’s also nice to have some spots of interest in several places along your foundation and out in the yard. Yes, I know, the person mowing the grass will probably complain about beds in the middle of the lawn, but consider how pleasant it will be looking out your windows and seeing the flowers and shrubs in bloom.

The picture above shows a circle I built in my landscape. Of course, I got rid of all the grass because I hate mowing, so this is a circle within a circle. The outer circle, seen in the background here, is a ring of Hostas and Astilbe since this area is shaded most of the day by redbud trees along the property line. This yard is in the city and fairly small, but you can incorporate these practices anywhere.


In the middle of the circle is a Nandina shrub, still in its first year, but it will grow to about 8 ft tall and 4 ft wide if I let it. However, since there isn’t that much space here, I will keep it pruned to fit the space. Other shrubs that would work are Spirea and Weigelia.

Day Lily

To the right and left of the Nandina are Stella de Oro daylilies getting ready to bloom. Stellas are great because they keep on blooming most of the season. As the name implies – daylilly – each bloom lasts only a day then dies and drops off. Daylilly flowers are edible. There are hundreds of kinds of daylilies.


In front of the Nandina is a hardy geranium (cranesbill). This is different from the potted geraniums that only last one season. This one is perennial and comes back year after year. It comes in many colors, but Johnson’s Blue is probably the most popular.

Heuchera Coral Bells

On either side of the geranium are two Coral Bells – Purple Palace – and again, heuchera comes in many colors. While they do put out tiny flowers on thin stems, they are best known for their colorful foliage. They like shade, but can tolerate some morning sun.


Behind the Nandina is a Hosta – name unknown – but it will get about as high and wide as the geranium up front. Hostas recede into the earth in the winter and you won’t see them again until the spring when little curled up shoots will peek out of the soil. This plant is almost care free. They put out flowers at the tips of sleek, slim stems and look quite messy. I like them mostly for the leaves, so those pesky flowers get cut back after a couple of weeks. A variety of different leafed hostas in a landscape looks wonderful, or you can use all of one kind.

Yep, I still need to pull some weeds and mulch!

What Kind of String Trimmer Do You Need?

String trimmers come in all different shapes and sizes. When purchasing a new one, consider how often you use it and whether you want to hassle with gas fired trimmers, or the ease of electric trimmers, or cordless, battery powered ones.

Gas Fired Trimmers – Gas fired trimmers have 4-cylinder engines, need a mix of oil and fuel, and can be temperamental to start. They have a pull cord and it takes a good strong arm to pull the cord. If your yard is larger than 100 X 100 ft, the gas trimmer may be your best choice.

Electric Trimmers – Electric trimmers are more convenient and less trouble to start than gas trimmers, but you are tethered to the electric cord. If your yard is smaller and a 100-foot, 12-gauge cord will reach all areas, then this is a lighter, more reliable choice. These are the lightest trimmers.

Battery Powered Trimmers – this model gives you the most flexibility and will work whether your yard is large or small. However, you do have the limitation of the length of charge, so when buying batteries for these trimmers, make sure the battery will give you the time you need to finish your job, or buy two batteries so you have a backup and don’t have to stop and wait for a recharge. One other advantage of battery power is that the battery may be interchangeable with other yard tools of the same brand.

Lengths of Trimmer Shafts – the length you need will depend on how tall and strong you are because the longer the shaft, the heavier the trimmer is. It is important to use a trimmer that feels comfortable and doesn’t put stress on your back to use it. Shafts come in various lengths and an adjustable handle will put the weight in the best spot for a comfortable grip.

Straight or Curved Shafts – a curved shaft is easier to maneuver and control, but puts the trimmer head closer to your feet. It may also put the least stress on our back. A straight shaft works well if you are tall or strong and can handle the weight and vibration of this type trimmer.

When shopping for a string trimmer, be sure to hold it and examine it carefully to get the one right for you and your yard.

Choosing the Right Rose

Determine What Features You Want.

Is fragrance important? What about disease resistance, repeat blooming, or thorns vs no thorns? If you are planting it near a sidewalk or entrance to your house, thornless might be right. Do you want it to bloom repeatedly? Do you want to have to deadhead the blossoms? Do you want bare root or a rose already potted? Is it easy to grow or does it need some tending?

Where Will You Plant It?

Knowing where you want the rose to live will help you determine what type rose to buy. If you want it to grow up a trellis, you need a climbing rose. If you want it to cover the ground, you need a ground cover rose. If you want to create a hedge, you need a shrub rose. If you want fragrance, be sure the label states that it is fragrant.

Selecting Your Plant

Not all classes of roses have the same kinds of flowers. Some have petals spreading out rather flat from the center core and look nothing like the full, many petaled, cup like roses we traditionally consider a “rose”. Check the picture on the plant’s tag and read the tag completely to be sure you get the petals you want. If the tag has a name for the type of rose, you may want to research its information online before buying.

Planting Your Rose

Roses develop very strong roots and those roots grow deep, so when planting a bare root plant, dig the hole at least 18-24 inches deep and wide. Put six inches of well-composted manure or bagged compost into the hole and form a cone in the center of the hole. Gently arrange the roots around the cone and fill in with soil. If it is a grafted plant (which many roses are) be sure not to bury the graft union (where the new and old stock were attached). For roses in containers, plant no deeper that the top of the soil in the pot. Roses will benefit from a little bone meal added to the hole at planting time


Roses need Nitrogen for shoots above ground, Phosphorus for root growth and Potassium for the whole plant. This is the N-P-K you see on fertilizer products. Look for fertilizers that include other nutrients like sulfur, boron, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc. Plants use these trace elements along with N-P-K to stay strong and strong plants resist disease and insect damage better. You have two choices on types of fertilizers: organic or inorganic.


Organic fertilizers include manures, compost, alfalfa, bone meal, fish fertilizer, and kelp extract. Organics are better for the environment, improve soil texture and feed soil micro-organisms, but are usually more expensive.


Inorganics are synthetic or man-made fertilizers and include most of the products you will find at the store. They can be more concentrated, but less expensive than organics and are available in water-soluble, granular, and slow-release. They do not help condition the soil, however.

Whatever you choose, there is a rose that fits your needs.




When to Move Plants into the Garden

Just before seedlings grown indoors are ready to transplant into their final garden spot, you will need to gradually introduce them to the outside environment. Move them outside on a mild, preferably cloudy day and let them sit in the shade each day until they become accustomed to the wind and weather. Keep exposing them to the outside a few hours each day for at least a week.

Cool Weather Plants

Some vegetables that you might start indoors such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, like cool weather and would be perfectly happy going outside as soon as the ground warms up a bit. In fact, they will probably bolt (go to seed and become bitter) when the weather gets too hot so you should time their planting so they mature before the hottest part of the summer. Peas, spinach, kale, carrots, radishes and fennel also like the cooler temperatures of late spring. Lettuces mature quickly but some varieties don’t like hot weather, so they can be planted early and late in the season.

Warm Weather Plants

Tomatoes and peppers need the heat and sunshine to develop plenty of produce.  These plants can be moved outside about two weeks after the last frost date if the soil is at least 65 degrees and nights are above 50. Other heat loving vegetables include eggplant, tomatillos, squash family, melons, and cucumbers. Heat tolerant varieties of lettuce such as Buttercrunch and Summer Crisp, Jericho Romaine, and Black Seeded Simpson can be grown in the summer between the cool varieties and harvested young.

Planting Seeds Directly into the Garden

Many vegetables can be seeded directly into the garden such as peas, beans, squash, cucumber, lettuce, collards, and radishes since they germinate quickly. Using row covers (thin cloth used to keep out bugs and protect against frost) will allow you to plant many vegetables directly outside earlier. Just be sure to remove the row covers for pollination.

Which Saw Do I Use?

I have been doing remodeling and building projects for years. Knowing I liked to DIY around the house, people started giving me tools for birthdays and Christmas and I built up quite a collection, even though I am still an amateur. I have and use an extensive variety of saws.

Table Saw

  • Although it scares the heck out of me, I use the table saw on a stand for cutting straight lines on pieces of wood and paneling too large to get a straight cut with a circular saw and for 45 degree cuts on lumber too wide to fit on my miter saw. You can cut straight with a circular saw, but my cuts tend to wobble with the circular saw if I don’t use a fence.

Circular Saw

  • This one is used for straight cuts on smaller pieces of lumber, but someone skilled with this tool could use if for just about everything. I used mine so often that I wore the blade down to a nub and burned out the motor. Much to my delight, I found the new circular saw had a laser light to show me where to cut.

Miter Saw

  • My miter saw’s deck only cuts up to a 5-inch board. I bought this one before I knew much about it and hope someday to replace it with a sliding compound miter saw that allows me to cut much wider material. This is a workhorse and essential for cutting moldings, dowels, PVC pipe, and anything else that will fit on the deck. It does feature a movable blade so I can cut different degree angles.


  • The jigsaw is great for cutting curves either from the outside edge or from a hole drilled in the middle of a cut. With the right blade, it is a very versatile tool for cutting PVC, metal, wood, plastic and ceramic tiles. Be sure the blade you use is designed for the material you are cutting. A blade that is too light for the job will tend to bend and make your cuts wiggle.

Reciprocating Saw

  • This is another saw that gives me pause because it is heavy, long, and powerful. I recently took down a wooden fence and used this saw to cut down the 4×4 posts to ground level since I didn’t want to dig up the concrete footings.  This is a great saw for demo or for cutting in areas where another type saw would not work.