At some point, I hope to find a season that has enough open weekends that will allow me to work in the yard and garden.
Winter? Well, its winter, and of course, all weekends are usually dedicated to skiing. Oh, and the ground may be frozen and/or covered with snow.
Spring? It seems that this season has the most potential with the familys schedule, as it is a tweener time of the year. But for garden maintenance, the sloppy conditions dont really equate to beneficial results. Our clayey soils dont like to be messed with much in the spring, as they are probably still wet and cold. They tend to benefit from work done the previous fall, but we will get to that conundrum in a minute.
Summer, by all accounts, demands maintenance, although I never seem to have enough time. I would like to say that all our weekends were spent camping, fishing, hiking or vacationing, but if you were to ask my family, they would probably say that I spent most of the summer weekends working. Their complaints held some validity, as Saturdays at least from July through mid-October were frequently dotted with demonstration garden workdays, farmers market booth, etc.
So perhaps fall holds the most potential. But I am having a difficult time trying to remember an autumn as glorious as this one, and the weekends when I havent been working begged for biking, camping, swimming and a couple jaunts to see family and/or fall colors. However, in fall, the vegetable beds are begging to be put to sleep, and I try to dedicate at least two full days to this process. This entails pulling all plants that succumbed to the freezes and either putting them in the compost (disease-free) or landfill. Many gardeners have issues with powdery mildew on their squash or zucchini plants during the late summer. Those plants need to be removed because the fungus can overwinter in the compost, creating a reservoir of fungi. Healthy bean, lettuce and Swiss chard plants are chopped and left to compost in the beds themselves, while carrot, beet and onion tops are placed in the compost.
In addition to cleaning up the beds, I add many amendments now. I like to add a layer of cardboard or a couple layers of newspaper; an inch of animal manure (well-composted, doesnt smell like it came from an animal) or 3 inches of composted plant material; then on top of it all, I add about 4 to 6 inches of a straw/leaf mixture. This soil lasagna helps develop organic matter, which is highly desirable for gardeners and their plants. If you are looking at adding a substantial amount of organic matter to a new garden, you should also check out the bulk soil amendments at any of our local nurseries.
Lastly, I gave everything a deep watering, deadheaded all plants that dont have winter appeal, planted too many spring bulbs and will apply a straw mulch blanket to the berries and tender perennials toward the end of the month.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.