We’ve had some cold nights already, but weather is expected to really change tomorrow to fall…

New growth in the middle of the Valerian patch

So here in Missoula MT, if you are a gardener, this time of year is bittersweet since things seem like they’re dying all around you (really, the perennials are just taking a long nap). Rule of thumb is to prune or do last harvest two week’s before the expected first frost. We seem to go from summer to winter overnight. with some false starts. The picture on the left is a good example of what you can find when exploring in the garden. Being greedy, I will do a little harvesting while pruning for the last time. This works until we get a hard frost…so the race is on! The secret is to cover the whole plant afterward with some frost cloth or equivalent for about a week (or two) so the plant can recover and be ready to “hibernate” for the real winter.

The next step is the final weeding and preparing for winter mulching. If you have grass and THISTLES that grow in the middle of your crowded  plants, you may not be able to get the whole root out without harming your plant. In a perfect Permaculture Garden you wouldn’t have this problem (I’m working toward it). In the meantime, if you use nippers or shears and cut right down to the soil it can compromise the plant so it won’t grow back as readily. It’s important to get weeds out before they flower, since you’ll have a better chance of them not coming back next year (even if you’ve mulched heavily). If the weed is “dead” with flowers, you still want to remove it, being careful not to allow the seeds to disperse while you’re handling it. You can use your shears to grip lightly the stems and put them where you want them. If you need to start a whole bed all over a weed eater is a great tool to bring all the weeds down to the soil too. Wear goggles and long pants, go over it twice if need be so you are left with bare soil. Now we wait for the leaves to fall or final mowing to use the “shreds” for mulching! There’s plenty to do in the meantime. Crafting?