Gardening Tips for Seedy Characters: Week 46

What to do this week

What a wonderful fall we have had, but winter is near, and this winter it might be even more important that you take the time now to mulch your trees, bushes and bulbs. We will very likely be getting heaving with the freezing and thawing that will come once the mild, wet weather we’ve been having turns cold.

Leaf mulch. (Photo by Bobby McKay, CC-by-ND 2.0

Leaf mulch. (Photo by Bobby McKay, CC-by-ND 2.0)

This unseasonably warm weather means that things you planted late in the year, like flower bulbs and garlic, or shrubs you moved in the late summer, will be very vulnerable. It is important to mulch these newly planted or transplanted things to help protect the plants from the freeze/thaw cycles to come.

As for your open — and for now empty — beds, it is always important to cover your soil for the winter, and this week is a good time to be doing that. Never leave your garden beds bare if you can help it. I talked about winter cover crops a while back, but if you didn’t get to that, now is the time to get some leaves, straw, even cardboard spread over your garden beds. Some people use hay, but that has a lot of weed seeds, so best to avoid it if possible, especially with your garlic. Garlic likes to be weed free.

Mulching is the most important thing you should be doing now. All this rain can really wreck your soil structure if you don’t protect it.

These high-carbon mulches, the leaves, straw and cardboard I suggest, will have to be removed in spring, or they will continue to break down and temporarily rob your soil of nitrogen. That nitrogen will work its way back to balance, once the carbon is fully assimilated, but it would be better for your crops to move the mulch and spare them this potential problem. Just keep these mulches on for the winter.

It is also important to remember a few things I have covered in past weeks, such as the importance of tree guards for your fruit trees. Those mice love to live under the snowbanks and munch on your unprotected tree bark. It is also a good idea to make sure the grasses around your trees are clipped well back, as tall grasses make very nice shelter for mice once the snow comes.

Also remember that it can be a good idea to put down your lime this time of year. There is a lot of moisture moving through the soil now, and through the winter and spring. This moisture moves the lime around, spreading it and mixing it into your garden, allowing it to do its job properly. Other soil additions can be added in spring, but lime needs more time to disperse.

Featured image by Amber Strocel, CC-by-ND 2.0, via Flikr





Market gardener, farmer, workshop leader, seed-saver, political candidate and mother, Michelle Smith has spent over 30 years coping with the challenges of our bioregion and in the process has built a store of practical and technical knowledge. The Inverness resident has served on the board of Seeds of Diversity Canada and represented Alternative Producers with the Federation of Agriculture but can do nothing about her hair. She is pictured with a head of Club Wheat, a seed that shares her approach to hairdressing.




Backyard food gardener Madeline Yakimchuk caught the food-security bug in the early ’90s through Cuba’s Urban Agriculture Department, taking her first permaculture course and planting her first garden. She can often be found discussing food security, nurturing a plant-based lifestyle or trying to give away vegetables. Professionally, she is GRYPHON media productions but sometimes uses la bruja in her volunteer work, most notably in managing the garden column, which begins life as a telephone interview.