I love this time of year in Sonoma. The early morning crispness in the air whispers autumn. Leaves are just starting to turn color. My fig tree sports splashes of yellow and the liquidambar down the block is revealing its first red leaves. I especially love the light. The sun feels so much softer sitting lower in the sky. The shadows are deliciously cool.
October is also an excellent time to get that garden cleaned up and ready for winter. Start with these seven important jobs.
1) Deal with your fallen leaves. In my back yard I let my tree leaves decompose on the ground. This gives me free soil enriching and soil protecting mulch. My understory is designed fairly open with not too many plants. I simply brush any tree leaves off the little plants. If you have too many leaves for composting in place you can put some or all of them in the compost bin.
2) Take out non-productive tomato plants. A lot of people complained that they didn’t get many tomatoes this year. If you are one of these people, take those tomato plants out now. Compost them if they are disease free.
3) Clean up and dispose of inedible fallen fruit. Old fruit on the ground can harbor disease and insect vectors over the winter. If the fruit is disease free you can compost it, otherwise you must throw it away.
4) Dead-head your lavender. After the flowers have faded cut back the stocks to the foliage zone for a neat appearance.
5) Add compost to your planting beds. Fall is good time to fertilize. Adding a layer of compost to existing planting beds is the best way to do this. I typically pull the bark away, spread the compost and then put the bark back on top.
6) Replace any plants that failed over the summer. Autumn is the best time to replace plants so they can get their roots established over the winter rainy season. Let’s hope we get rain!
7) Plan, purchase and install your winter vegetable garden. Be sure to add organic soil amendments to enrich the soil after your summer garden has been removed.