Garden Notes: At year’s end

If you’re a gardener, keep an eye on the ground under your feet and carry on. As winter sets in, anxiety about the future weighs heavily on communities. The end of the year is the time for long nights, short days, revelry and revelry (often forced), and broken credit cards.

Say goodbye to the past, its triumphs and its sorrows. Recently, there are many people who are at a loss for words because of various shocks. But we live in an island maritime climate, which we appreciate. Gardeners have outdoor activities that keep us grounded in the natural world. We have a lot of work to do to prepare our gardens for 2023.

healthy soil nourishes us

Do what’s best for your soil so it can do what’s best for you. Winter, when the natural world seems monotonous and dormant, is when a lot happens beneath the surface. There may be frost on the top of the soil. But that life goes on.

To support the “organic fertilizer/soil food” theme often mentioned here, a warm blanket of organic matter, compost, leaf mold or cover crops aids in the following interactions:

  • Regulate moisture and add organic matter.
  • A teaspoon of healthy soil contains millions of micro-organisms that work to create a “storehouse” of nutrients. Just one teaspoon of healthy soil contains miles of mycelium.
  • Organic matter in the soil nourishes microscopic organisms that mutually make nutrients available to plants. In return, the mycelium extends deep into the soil and uploads nutrients to the plant’s roots.
  • Microscopic organisms work to improve soil structure by aggregating organic matter and soil particles. They strengthen the pore space, resist compression, and allow air and water movement. (Source: Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association.)

competing scenarios

You can choose. An entirely different scenario: fast-acting chemical fertilizers that kill soil organisms. Mulch of unknown composition and origin (partly coniferous shipping pallets, ground and blackened with a dye derived from coal tar) affects appearance and augments or augments missing biomass. brought in for replacement.

Yet another scenario is that yards and yards of imported topsoil are brought in and removed from wherever they go, adding to what nature has failed to accomplish here, eventually leading to aquifers, ponds, and finally drainage. is to create gardens and turfgrass lawns maintained by a range of products that do. Estuary.

Imported soils bring their own potential for arthropods, seed banks, toxic constituents, and pathogenic microbes. your choice.

Currently tending the garden

As you clear the debris from your yard, you may find that next season’s shoots appear under the fall debris. Snowdrops, daffodils, and Solomon’s seal hump all wait for spring with suspended preparations.

Some of the garden plant material, such as hosta stems and passeggiatalis, can be pulled apart easily. It can be cut back in the near future.

It’s a matter of taste. I prefer to avoid disturbing the soil by pulling plant debris, instead cutting them off and leaving the root ball to decompose in the soil.

Perennials such as nepeta and mums form bushy, overwintering basal growths under the previous season’s stem halo. Trim these, leaving only base growths. Here the now perennial Gaura also forms a basal growth below last summer’s growth. Not only will this root growth linger all winter and sprout again the following season, but this pollinator-friendly, drought-tolerant Texas homeseed is plentiful.

One reason to plant ornamental grasses is to increase interest in your garden. It is preferable to leave it until the shape is crumpled for winter weather. Then cut and remove. It is reseeding them into the wider island landscape that provides a reason to avoid large-scale non-native Japanese miscanthus plantings.

Instead there are a lot of very beautiful native grasses. Hoffman nursery school ( is a great resource. Two impactful personal favorites (cultivated rather than wild) are Panicum ‘Dallas Blues’ and Schizochyrium ‘Standing Ovation’.

It leaves perennial plants such as Geranium macrorrhizum. These are best left standing because of their attractive foliage and color during the winter. Voles are already active in mat-forming perennials such as carnations. Prune ground cover, such as ivy, that continues to grow through winter.

For the eco-conscious gardener, grasses, rudbeckia, crocosmia, Montauk daisies, and anything else that has seeds are potential food and winter support for wildlife. Compare that to reseeding and encouraging voles and chipmunks.

Tracy DiSabato-Aust, “The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: The Essential Guide to Planting & Pruning Techniques” (Timber Press, 1998) is helpful. This manual is now a classic that has been reprinted in multiple editions. It includes planting an extensive list of perennials and instructions on “when, how and what to cut”.

Climate change and why

What we need is more trees, not less trees. Department of Defense Climate Risk Analysis ( describes global drought, increasingly severe weather and storms, and uncontrollable heat.

As a lifelong resident, I am acutely aware of the important aspects of island life: the wind, the weather, and their impact on the landscape and on us. is. Since I started playing “Garden Notes”, the frequency of wind events has increased, and I’ve been worried about the intense summer heat. So it bothers me a lot to see a lot of clearing going on.

Woodland is a source of moisture management, shade, shelter and protection. They are the flesh and bones of the land. When storms and heat are increasing, we need more trees, shade and windbreaks instead of clearing cleared land. The felled trees should be replaced with hardy and hardy tree species.

become light

The old saying, “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness,” takes many forms in different cultures.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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