We have now had our first hard freeze resulting in killing many annuals and tender perennials. This will, hopefully, transition to Indian summer, a popular term which is now viewed as a pejorative. The American Meteorological Society uses the term “Second Summer,” which reflects that a killing freeze is followed by more warm days or a second summer of which there can be several.
The good news is that we did not get the rapid, large, and long drop in temperatures that we have gotten the previous three Octobers that resulted in a large amount of damage and death for many plants including shrubs and trees. And after this year’s extremely wet spring followed by drought which has made gardening difficult and damaging to many plants, I’m glad to see the freeze. It signals the end of many gardening activities for the year. I’m ready to get to the relative gardening calm of winter.
But lest you think that gardening is over, for many gardeners it simply changes the nature of the work. It is generally less intense, but is busy nonetheless. For some gardening fanatics (me, for example) the first freeze is the trigger of several days of high activity to save plants that are not cold hardy in our winters and that are carried over to next year.
For me, this is the digging, top and root pruning, and potting up of about 50 – 60 shrubs, ferns, and other perennials and storing them for winter in warm locations. This is no small job and, while not difficult or hard work, it is time-consuming.
I successfully protected all plants that needed it, but many are still awaiting pruning and potting up. These were either temporarily put in the garage and greenhouse or on the back porch covered with tarps with a 60-watt light giving heat overnight. This buys me time to finish the job at a more leisurely pace.
The immediate fall work to follow includes getting more mulch from the city chipping site at the dump and mulching garden beds and newly planted and transplanted shrubs and perennials. Some bed cleanup, leaf removal, and pruning of dead wood in trees and shrubs is also beginning now.
Also, most gardeners have winter projects to do when the weather allows. For me this will focus first on preparing a large bed for planting next spring that was destroyed last winter by the workers remodeling part of the house as well as doing a few repairs to other areas and things that they also destroyed in months of working here.
In accepting the reality of my inability to keep up the work required by my extensive gardens, I am getting help and will finally catch up on much needed tree and shrub pruning consisting largely of dead limbs from the previously mentioned October freezes.
Also on that agenda is turning two large compost piles.
Regardless of the size of gardens, the gardener’s level of interest, and the nature of their gardens, there will be some work needed periodically all winter.
This article originally appeared on Amarillo Globe-News: Garden Guy column: First hard freeze