by Charlene Burgi
The children are back in school. The daylight hours are noticeably shorter. September gardens are showing the approach of fall. Some trees are beginning to display hints of red, orange and yellow where there was once green foliage. Aside from a few late bloomers, most annual color is fading and perennial flowers have stopped producing flowers. The garden is already preparing for winter’s rest.
While the garden goes through this autumn cycle, the gardener can gear up to enhance, replace, redesign and add to that bit of paradise. This is the time of year to create a rain garden before winter rains approach. Determine the pattern water travels on the property, and rework the drainage to maximize the theory of “Slow it down, spread it out, soak it in.” This may require amending the soil for better percolation. Plant shrubs, grasses and perennial color that will tolerate the wet conditions of winter and dry periods of summer. Sheet mulch areas where bare ground lays fallow. Consider replacing the summer garden with a few winter vegetables. Add composted material to the garden to replenish the nutrients taken from summer crops. Visit local nurseries to see which trees might provide the best fall color. Consider the tree’s dormant time and plant in an area of the garden that would welcome winter sun. Top dress mulch to provide a winter blanket to protect tender roots in cold temperatures. To prevent rot, remember to keep several inches clear of mulch around the base of tree trunks and woody stems of plants.
A trip to the hardware store will assure a good supply of pipe insulation. Wrapping exposed water pipes now can save the panic of sold-out supplies later when winter temperatures dip into the low 30s. This step will prevent potential emergency calls to a plumber to repair broken water pipes. And speaking of freeze, many plants in Marin need winter protection. Plan ahead to gather materials for makeshift tents, spray with a frost/heat protective covering to prevent dehydration, and move containers into a protected environment before winter chill comes along.
Should electrical power be lost, a new nine-volt battery, if applicable, will hold the irrigation controller’s programming. Without this battery backup, some controllers will revert to watering 10 minutes a day, every day of the week.
As the rains fall and temperatures drop, you can take pleasure knowing you prepared and protected the garden from the tempest of winter. This will be the time for your winter rest!