Big changes are coming to our Teaching Garden area over the next few weeks! Fall will be here soon, so it’s nearly time to put our garden to bed. We’ll have a last minute taste of summer this week, but you can expect that the weather is going to cool down soon. Every garden is different, but to put ours to bed, we start by collecting seeds. If you’d like to learn how, stop by our Teaching Garden on Tuesday during workdays, or register for our program on collecting and sowing seed on September 29. We’re able to gather a lot of seed from our spaces, and we keep some of it to plant in spring, send some home with our seed collecting volunteers, and save the rest of it for our popular Seed Library. Once our seed has been collected, we’ll have an end of the season party to cut and share our flowers with volunteers and customers. Only then can we really put the garden to bed. With the help of our Master Gardeners, we do what’s called a chop and drop, where we cut our annuals to the ground. Instead of gathering and composting the foliage, we leave it where it falls and mulch thickly over the top. Over the course of winter, the plant material breaks down in place, and enriches the soil for spring. This is one of the easiest and best things you can do for your future garden, and it’s much less labor intensive than many of the alternatives. The only exceptions to our chop and drop are plants with many seeds (like tomatoes) and weeds. You’ll want to remove those from your garden and either dispose of them or compost them. Once you’ve finished this part of your garden clean up, you can plant any bulbs or tubers that you typically fall-plant for spring. That’s it!

One final note before you put your own garden to bed: it’s always really helpful to take pictures (and even write yourself a few notes!) before you do so. Winter is long here in the Midwest, and it’s so easy to forget what was successful, and what you would change come spring planting. This can also help you remember where perennials are, so that you can plan your spring garden around them.