fall leaves on trees

Let’s Grow Stuff: Garden’s to bed, looking ahead

November 11, 2021 Benjamin Futa Leave a Comment

We’re nearing the end of another gardening season (close, but not quite). Many of us are busy “putting our gardens to bed” and, if you’re like me, you already have thoughts and notes about what you want to try, change, and tweak for next year. In this spirit, today we’re sharing two streams of thought. First, we’ll explore some things you can do this fall to give your garden a jump-start for next year and, second, we’ll share a few trends and ideas we see on the horizon to keep the inspiration churning over the coming winter months. 

Let’s dig in. 

photo of a grass lawn with red fall leaves

Wins for your Fall Weekends

Leave the leaves

If you haven’t already started “cleaning out” your leaves, good news – you don’t have to! Leaves are some of the very best mulch for our gardens, and leaving them in place over winter provides critical habitat for overwintering insects looking for a cozy place to hibernate. They also help keep spring annual weeds at bay early next year, and – bonus – will decompose into beautiful compost and feed your soil. Leaves are a far better choice for our plants than bark mulch or wood chips, and it’s usually free (assuming you or your neighbors have trees). 

Clean, inspect, and care for tools

video still of gardening pruners soaking in a jar of vinegar

Watch an episode of Let’s Grow Stuff on caring for your favorite gardening tools.

Our tools can take a beating throughout the year and often we’re too busy and “in the moment” to give them the proper care they need. This is a perfect time to take stock of your tools and get them ready for next year, everything from sharpening your pruners, to conditioning and oiling the wooden handles on your trusty rake and shovel. Oiling the handles will help keep the wood flexible and smooth, and help prevent it from splintering or breaking with repeated use. Check out this Let’s Grow Stuff video from earlier this year to learn more about tools.

Plant your garlic

Really, any bulbs: garlic, shallots, daffodils… So long as the ground isn’t frozen you can plant, but do you really want to push it to December 24th? I’m speaking from past experience here… This is the perfect time to get your bulbs planted, and the sooner they get in the ground, the sooner you can breathe deeply, knowing they’ll be popping up early next year with tasty and beautiful things in store. Want to learn more about growing amazing garlic? Check out this University Place video from Garden Expo earlier this year.

Looking Forward

Reimagining lawns

It feels like I’m seeing this topic more frequently these days. As we’ve come to realize the collective impact of conventional lawns – from the overuse of toxic chemicals to fossil fuel emissions and sound pollution, not to mention being ecological deserts for wildlife – many are beginning to rethink their lawn. Whether it’s encouraging and allowing flowering plants like dandelions and clover to mingle freely, participating in #NoMowMay, or entirely replacing lawns with different plants, this trend is already gaining ground (pun intended?)

Gardening is still popular

Many of you may be pandemic gardeners, people who picked up a trowel in early 2020 and have been gardening since. With so many new gardeners entering the fold nearly two years ago, nurseries and growers are still working to keep up with customer demand that’s higher than ever. We said it last year and we’ll say it again: do not wait to order your seeds, bulbs, or shop your local garden center next spring. It’s still likely things will sell out quickly. I, for one, am over-the-moon happy for this trend to continue, because more gardeners in the world is exactly what we need. 

Friends won’t let friends plant annuals

Here’s one that’s sure to get the horticultural hate mail flowing my way. 😈 Annual flowering plants are some of the most resource-intensive plants grown in our gardens, especially when we purchase them from a greenhouse. Think about it: that greenhouse had to dump money into heating a huge space, soil, staff time, and loads of plastic and fertilizer in order to deliver you perky and plump annuals in time for Mother’s Day. You end up needing to replace them every year, and those costs add up. With inflation on the rise (and the jury is out where things will stand in six months when we’re heading into planting season), people will be reevaluating how and where they spend their money. 

Maybe we’ll be growing even more things from seed (see above, order early!), maybe we’ll be open to be more patient and buy smaller plants, or maybe we’ll realize that annuals aren’t the best use of our gardening resources and opt for native, hardy, durable, awesome perennials that will return year after year. Something to ponder… 

photo of a garden with handwriting of a signature in bright pink

Well, there you have it. Gardening, at least for me, is about finding joy in the process of gardening. I enjoy the steady to-do list because it helps keep me grounded. I enjoy thinking about how my gardening practice can make the world and the community around me better and more beautiful than how I found it. These are the values I will be bringing with me into 2022 and beyond. Why do you garden? Lean in to those things that bring joy, and let’s grow stuff, together!