by Charlene Burgi
The crisp morning air brings on a sense of urgency to prepare for winter. The hay has been stacked in the barn. The bird’s coffers are filled with favorite suet and seed. Special trough heaters and heated water dishes have been tested to ensure ample water for the large animals if the temperatures dip below freezing for an extended period of time. The chores are checked off the list for critters, both tame and wild.
The plants are another matter. I have noticed the automatic roof window of the greenhouse closing at night now and think of the container plants adorning the front and back decks. These color spots are located under roof covers, but I know this will not be enough to protect them once the snows fall and the freezing winds blow. I attempt to visualize how they will be arranged in their new winter home while still allowing space to grow winter vegetables. Did I underestimate the space needed in the greenhouse, or did my passion for growing plants exceed the capacity for winter protection?
I also thought about the plants growing in the ground. A few days ago I began assembling the moving boxes with the idea of using them for sheet mulch. Jack filled his truck and trailer with mountains of mulch to add a protective blanket on the ground. But he started covering the large oval planting area containing water-efficient perennials and bulbs before I could get the boxes flattened. And this was my chance to again show the advantages of sheet mulching.
We agreed that I would sheet mulch the rhododendron garden, which had minimal planting to work around. Jack left the full trailer parked in that vicinity with the pitchfork and wheelbarrow at my disposal before leaving to dig fence posts to enclose another pasture area for the horses. The gauntlet had been thrown down, yet I moved with confidence knowing the benefits of sheet mulching and the minimal weed germination that would take place. The rhodies would thank me for enriching the soil when the cardboard decomposed. I have hope that the bark will not break down as fast since it won’t make direct contact with the earth.
Despite this activity, there are a few chores that remain unchecked for now. The irrigation lines must have the water blown out of them so they don’t freeze and break. Insulated covers must be wrapped around pipes inside the barn, and well-placed heaters must be situated in places such as the barn bathroom to prevent the toilet from cracking.
I think back to how simple winter preparation was in Marin. But is it? Plants still need a winter blanket of mulch. Outdoor pipes must be wrapped in pipe insulation and insulated blankets should be placed over backflow devices. Gutters must be cleaned of collected debris, water coming from downspouts needs to be directed away from the foundation, and drainage issues have to be addressed before winter rainfall. Marin also has a winter-readiness list of chores.
Autumn is in the air, even in Marin! Start making plans now so you are ahead of the game and not left out in the rain! Are you getting ready?
Hurry! Registration for Spanish Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper Certification Course Closes October 1
Reminder: The Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) training course in Spanish will run October 9-27 at Pickleweed Community Center in San Rafael. This FREE course covers proper plant selection for the local climate, irrigation system design and maintenance, and irrigation system programming and operation. Please share this information with any friends, colleagues or employees who may be interested. Don’t delay! Participants must register by October 1. Call (877) 689-7721.