by Charlene Burgi
In the autumn, many years ago, customers would come into our nursery to pick up last minute items. They knew that autumn was the best time to plant. As some customers departed, they would sing out, “See you next spring.” Their comment would make me cringe at the thought of working outside during the long, cold wet dreary days ahead.
Winter was a busy time in the nursery and inclement weather didn’t stop the work. Fruit and deciduous trees required pruning, ball and burlap plants required potting, and bare root trees and roses didn’t come in plastic wrap bags but literally came off the truck bare root. Each plant would demand attention to detail as we pruned back damaged roots and healed each tree into large planting bins filled with wood shavings. All the various berries, artichokes, asparagus, rhubarb and grapes also came into the nursery bare root and required the same attention to detail before the prepared gardener, who knew these bare root plants could be purchased at bargain prices, braved the cold weather to visit the nursery.
The prepared gardener took advantage of not just the savings but of the warm autumn days to prepare their garden for the winter plant additions. They worked their planting beds by adding compost, double digging and final grading. Sheet mulching was also on order to stop weeds from germinating, and often planks would be set down as a temporary path in the newly turned earth to prevent compaction. Another fall task was planting fava beans to break up any hardpan soil and add nitrogen to the soil as the plants broke down.
The prepared gardener also oiled and sharpened tools for any pruning that needed to be done in the garden that winter. A solution of one part bleach to ten parts water was at the ready for dipping the blades of pruning shears to prevent spreading any plant disease. Dormant sprays such as horticultural oil would also be available to apply in a timely manner to ward off over-wintering eggs and insects.
It was the prepared gardener who brightened my days during the cold, wet dreary winter. Not only did these gardeners come into the nursery to make purchases but to swap ideas about gardening and soak up whatever knowledge I had to share. The warmth of these visits would draw me closer to spring.
Unprepared for the early winter storm. The storm that hit this past Wednesday caught me off guard! As I write, it occurs to me that I am not as prepared for winter as I thought. What happened to September? Time is growing short for installing a winter vegetable garden. Many areas in my garden are still waiting for a winter layer of mulch to keep roots warm and prevent weeds from germinating. At best, I need to sheet mulch the future vegetable garden for spring.
How about you? Are you prepared for winter or are you cringing at the thought?