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Garden Delights - November 2016

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Winterizing Your Water-wise Garden

The recent fall rains are an excellent reminder of the seasonal change to come, when we and our gardens need to prepare for the soggy and cool conditions of winter. At Daily Acts we believe that a water-wise garden can serve a variety of functions year-round, providing habitat, medicine and food in addition to beauty. While the term water-wise garden has become synonymous with low maintenance, seasonal work is still required to keep these plants healthy and looking good. Here are some basic tips for tending your diverse water-wise garden as we fall into winter.

  • S.O.S (Save Our Seeds): Continue to collect late ripening seed for sowing next season. Be sure to clean seed, removing any excess chaff (leaf or flower parts) that provides the perfect environment for rot in storage or if direct sown into the garden when the rainy season arrives.
  • Sow seeds of love: Dust off those envelopes filled with yummy veggie and fruit seeds and begin propagating the seedlings that will bring your winter garden to life. 
  • Make the beds: Now that you have harvested your summer annual garden, it’s time to get those planting beds ready for winter food crops. Amend with compost, worm castings and rock dust or turn under cover crops to release nutrients into the soil.
  • Fertilize your Fruit Trees: Be sure to give a little extra nourishment to your fruit trees with nitrogen rich resources that will produce an abundance of ripe fruits. On the topic of fruit trees, don’t forget to thin out excess fruit for proper development, less broken branches and subsequent deliciousness to occur! 
  • Weeds be gone: Of course with the rain comes the weeds – be sure to get them when they are small to keep them from out-competing new plants for nutrients and other resources. 
  • Mulch, mulch and more mulch: Top dress with rice straw, coconut coir and shredded bark to suppress weeds and retain moisture in the soil, reducing stormwater runoff. Just be sure to keep it away from the crowns (where the roots hit the shoots) of the plants to avoid rot, especially for plants that die back annually.
  • Deadhead dance: Move to the beat of the garden or the falling rain while performing this beneficial service of cutting out old flower stalks, grasses and fern fronds etc. While most deadheading is done in the fall, many flowers and seeds can provide much needed food in early winter for birds and other wildlife. This will also encourage new growth in the spring and provide air circulation around the crown of the plant.
  • Plant those perennials: This is the dormant season for most plants which will keep them from experiencing any transplant shock to their roots or water loss from their leaves with changing temperatures. It also allows you to cut down on watering by taking advantage of the rain.
  • Share the bounty: Much of what you prune can be propagated from cuttings, why not pot a few up to use in your garden or share with friends? This is also a great time of year to process all those veggies and fruits from the summer garden that are sitting in your freezer- that gallon bag of blackberries would make a nice warm dessert this winter.

They say an abundant spring garden is tied to a well-tended winter one and by that token, this list of activities should keep you out enjoying your water-wise garden all season long. However, to make things feel more manageable during this wet time of year, try observing the needs of your garden first. Some thoughtful observation will help you narrow down the list to a few key things to focus on and once these are accomplished you may be able to fit in a few more. Above all be sure to take good notes on all of your challenges and successes as these will lead to greater abundance the next time around. And don’t forget to take a little time to dance in the rain!