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Garden chores this month: Clean up and repair

By Joan Cassanova

Bonnie Plants

Make your garden to-do list, and check it twice.

Most gardeners across the country are thinking, “It’s December; gardening season is over.” No so fast. There’s still plenty of tasks for gardeners in December, which will make springtime a welcomed breeze.

Be sure you’ve cleaned up garden debris: It’s important to remove spent plants from the garden since they can harbor disease, fungus and insect eggs. If you’re sure old garden plants are disease/fungus-free and there’s no insect eggs, you can dig a garden trench and bury them, which will add some organic matter to the soil and actually improve its’ overall health. If you’re not sure old plants are disease/fungus and insect-egg free, it’s best to bag, tie and discard.

Prepare your soil for spring: Most gardeners wait for spring to amend their soil, but fall is a good time to add soil amendments like manure, compost, and bone meal. In most climates, adding nutrients at this time of year means they’ll have time to break down, enrich your soil, and become biologically active. You can cover the bed with plastic to prevent rain and snow from washing them below the root zone, then uncover and till the soil in spring. Consider doing a soil test to determine just what your soil is lacking. Preparing soil now will give you a big head start next season.

Make way for more compost: Cleaning out old compost piles will make way for more. To keep microbes working a little bit longer, build a fall compost pile with the abundant fall leaves, eggshells, coffee grounds, fruit peels, along with straw, or sawdust layered with kitchen scraps.

 Replenish mulch:  Mulching in fall has some of the same benefits as springtime mulching, such as  reducing water loss, protecting the soil from erosion, and keeping weeds down. Adding a thick layer of mulch to the soil’s surface helps to regulate soil temperatures and moisture and make for an easier transition into the winter. While the mulch breaks down, it will incorporate new, fresh organic matter into your soil.

Clean and sharpen tools: There’s never enough time to tend to tools when gardening is in full swing in spring and summertime. Now is a great time to lengthen your garden tools’ lifespan. Begin by washing tools to remove dirt and debris. If there’s any rust remove it with a steel wool pad. Sharpen hoes, shovels and pruners and then oil-up your tools to finish. Once spring arrives you’ll be happy you took time now for garden tool maintenance.

Repairs: Fences, trellises, other plant supports, cold frames, pots, painted surfaces, etc. – they’re all easier to see and gain access to when plants are dormant. Not to mention some problems in need of repair are unsightly, especially with the lack of foliage in the winter. Dig in to repairs now and fix as much as you can, well prior to spring madness.

Plans and Plants:  Now that you’ve accomplishedtime-consuming tasks in preparation for the winter, it’s time to get to the good stuff; perusing garden plans and picking plants you’d like to grow next spring. Bonnie Plants offers a plethora of gardening information on their website, www.bonnieplants.com. Click on the “Gardening” tab where you’ll find a host of articles on all things gardening, from growing techniques to how-to projects and so much more in between.

By the time you finish garden tasks, plans and picking out plants you’ll be well on your way to a super simple spring garden.

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