MASTER GARDENERS: Almost time for annual winter garden clean up

To Debbie Roland

master gardener

Winter has come and a severe freeze has struck. That means it’s time for your annual garden cleaning. February 1st is usually the best time for this. By then the dead plants are left to allow birds, bugs and insects to overwinter. It also cleans up fallen seeds and fruit.

Start by removing weeds and dead plants. I always leave the leaves alone. They rot and make excellent compost onsite. If you don’t like leaving fallen leaves, add them to your compost bin.

Then cut back the perennials. I try to keep it about 8-12 inches off the ground.

Clean the bed and be sure to mulch it. (photo courtesy)

Annuals don’t come back, so pull them up with their roots and send them to the compost bin. If you know the plants are not growing well and may be diseased, do not add them to the pile. Compost may not get hot enough to kill some pests and pathogens.

Ornamental grasses must be cut annually. I use an electric hedge trimmer for this chore. Just cut about 12″ to 18″ in mound shape.

Then start (or continue) soil amendment. Add compost, aged manure, bone meal, or potting soil from last year to the pot. I sometimes dig a hole about 12 inches deep in my garden bed and fill it with garbage. Attracts worms and other bugs to aid in the decomposition process, which is favorable for spring beds.

Clean your gear and get ready for the year ahead. (photo courtesy)

Finally, add mulch to protect the cut back plants. As the mulch breaks down, it also helps the soil. All this effort will get you out of the house and off to a great start towards your garden in 2023.

I keep a spray bottle of bleach (10%) and water on my workbench. Be sure to mark what is inside the bottle with a permanent marker. Rinse and clean all hand tools, shovels, hoes, etc. with the bleach mixture. I don’t want to carry this year’s problems into next year’s garden.

If you have any questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or Midland at 686-4700.

Additional information and a blog to access past articles are available at Click Resources.

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