Clean pots, discard spent plants, divide perennials

By Linda C. Dolak

OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer

By this time of year, most gardeners are tiring of garden chores. Flowers are done blooming, and vegetables have been harvested. So the last thing to do is to prepare the gardens for winter. This may be the most important thing a gardener does. If cleaned properly, the spring garden will have a healthier start and spring chores will be easier.

Flowers and vegetables that have begun to shrivel and turn brown should be removed. Getting rid of the spent greenery is one way to reduce the chance for fungi and insects to over-winter, as diseases can overwinter on foliage left on top of the ground. Any of these “infections” can contaminate your new plants next year. Clean up weeds, too, as they also can harbor diseases and insects.

Remove annuals you don’t want to re-seed. Many will come back the following year, but may be more abundant because they will actually thrive from the many dropped seeds. For details on perennials, refer to Marilyn McKinley’s article on this page.

The time to divide perennials is when they are dormant. This is a great way to increase the number of plants in your garden (or share with a friend). When you divide the plants, you are also improving the health of the plants by giving them more room. This time of year gives the new transplants a better chance of survival. When the center of a perennial has died (i.e. grasses, irises), division will revive it. Select hearty shoots from the outside of the plant and transplant them in suitable areas. Discard the dried center.

Decorative grasses and tall sedums can add interest after you have removed other plants. Sedum is a perennial plant with thick, succulent leaves, fleshy stems, and clusters of star-shaped flowers. They come in a variety of heights and can add great winter interest to the garden.

Be sure your containers do not carry diseases into the next spring by washing them with a scrub brush dipped in a solution of bleach and water. The mixture should contain one part bleach to ten parts water. If stacking your pots, line each with newspaper so they won’t stick together.

Clean your tools with the same solution used on the pots and organize your storage areas, keeping in mind which items you will need first in the spring. For metal items, use an alternate sterilizer, as bleach can cause pitting and other damage to metals over time.

Lastly, don’t forget to winterize your faucets and hoses to prevent frozen pipes. Be sure to drain those hoses before you put them away for the winter!

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