Winter is almost here and my perennial garden is on its way to dormancy. We have enjoyed very balmy weather this November: a high of 71 degrees on Sunday!
The leaves are almost completely down and the clean up continues. As the days get shorter, the planting window shortens also, but there is ample time to continue to plan for next year. Late fall is a good time to design a new garden bed for next spring. There are so many plants I still want to incorporate into my garden: Native fruiting shrubs and small trees to provide food and shelter to birds and small mammals, a butterfly garden and a separate herb garden. All of which will also help shrink the size of my lawn and provide a more interesting and intimate inner garden.
In the past, I found the process of creating a new garden bed a bit daunting: removing the existing grass, turning the soil and double digging. Sometimes I think we make things harder than they have to be. No question that preparing a great bed is the secret to a great garden, but it can be achieved with a few almost effortless steps and simple garden tools.
Evaluate the site Is the area in a sunny or shady spot, is it generally dry or moist, do you want a natural screen to block out a building, garage or street. If so, where would you want the tallest plants to be and how big does the area need to be.
Outline the area using the hose, experiment with an outline that best appeals to you and that is adequate for the site as well as for future plantings. When you are satisfied, use the spray to mark the area. At this point, you can decide whether you need to add a layer of compost to amend the soil. Generally, if the bed is destined for a perennial garden, I strongly advise adding your amendments now, however, if it is going to be more of a shrub and small tree bed, I opt for amending the soil as I plant.
Cover grass completely with four or five layers of newspaper. This will block the light and kill the sod under the paper. It is safe to use all pages with color print as all inks used today are soy based, however, do not use glossy material. I hose down the paper as I lay it down to keep it in place.
Add a mulching layer to keep the paper down on the sod and inhibit weeds. I have been very successful with hardwood mulch. For this bed I will try shredded leaves piled about four inches high.
The advantage of preparing this bed in the late fall is clear, I am able to use at least part of the abundant cache of leaves provided by nature and by leaving the grass covered through the winter, the sod will naturally die. When the planting season is here again I will turn the leaf mold and the sod into the soil as I plant to add valuable Hummus and nutrients for the plantings. This method worked well for me, implemented in early spring for fall planting.
“The earth produces all things and receives all again.”
– Spanish Proverb