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  • Writer's pictureMatt

5 Quick Tips and Tricks to Prepare Your Garden During Autumn

We can't believe it! Autumn is in full force here in Zone 7, and with the weather cooling down, it's time to get everything ready for winter. Which, knowing us, will come before we can blink. But, no matter how busy you are, here are some tips and tricks that we've learned along the way about how you can prepare your garden for the upcoming cold months.

1. Leaves make great mulch

For us, we have only 1/3 of an acre, in which our backyard is 1/3 of that. But, we did keep our big trees to provide shelter for the birds and wildlife and to keep the whole backyard cool. However, since these are large trees, they drop a ton of leaves. We compost as much as we can so that we have fantastic leave mould for the following year, but we still have way too many leftover leaves.

If you have a lawnmower, simply bag or side your leaves so they are nice and shredded up. We do this throughout the fall until the leaves have all fallen, or mostly fallen. We have a nice pile of leaves at the side of the yard and then we can spread out the shredded leaves as mulch. This is essentially what nature does anyways, but the shredded leaves makes it neater, easier to spread, and provides a better blanket. If your leaves are dry, you can really pile them on - even up to a foot in thickness if you want. Once it rains, it'll shrink your mulch down to a few inches, which is what you want for the winter months. Leaves also make great compost, so you have free mulch plus the benefit of the leaf mould and nutrients as it decomposes.

2. Go ahead and plant anything still in your pots (not the ones that should stay in a pot)

If you're like us and have plants still in pots from the nursery, go ahead and get those in the ground. This will allow them to establish their roots and they will be ready for spring. Also, it'll let you clean off your deck or wherever you may be storing your plants. You'll want to plant them anyways because they will most likely not make it through the winter if it's in a plastic pot.

3. Add to your stick pile or make a new one!

Now that it's fall and everything seems to be falling anyways, this is a great time to add to your exiting stick and branch pile, or create one! Our furry friends are already preparing to bunker down for the winter, so any help we can give them is extremely beneficial. We have a corner in the yard that is full of branches and sticks that fall throughout the year, and we just keep piling on to that. Birds, chipmunks, insects, etc. all like to hide out in our wood pile. This is an easy shelter (also free) that will create a great habitat during winter and throughout the year for that matter. I'm pretty sure we have a turtle that lives around it too.

4. Get your water buckets out and collect rain water

Since Fall seems to be more of a rainy time for us, this is a great time to start collecting rain water. We just use those big plastic trashcans, but you can go for the fancy ones too. It's also a great time to collect rain water because the mosquitos aren't out anymore. You will want a filter to prevent it from filling up with leaves. We have a large plastic filter (like for washing veggies) but you can use some old window screen too. Rain water has many benefits and is a great way to save money, reduce your water use, and is a bit on the acidic side, which many plants like. Actually, we use it for our fish tanks too.

5. Plant winter cover crops (after your leaves fall)

We've been hard at work to recuperate our soil and by soil, I mean pure red clay. So we plant cover crops each year as a way to build the soil back up. After the leaves have fallen, we go around and toss around our cover crop seeds everywhere. We recommend doing this when the ground is wet. It just helps the seeds to stick and settle in. Winter cover crops hate the heat, so they thrive really well in the cooler months. They will probably start to grow up and may die back a bit in the winter, but they'll be ready to go when it starts to warm up next spring.

Weather report - 2nd Autumn has arrived and is finally starting to actually cool down. Days in the 60's, nights in the 40's.

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