Our latest weather pattern is making outdoor fall clean up more difficult than usual. It always can seem overwhelming, but even more so this year thanks to several long rain events.
For example, just keeping up (again) with the flush of the lawn has been hard, but add in finding a time when the ground is firm enough and grass dry enough, is the real challenge.
While at a recent meeting, the presenter asked if anyone knew how you would eat an entire elephant. After several funny answers, the real one was "one bite at a time," exactly how gardeners should tackle fall clean up.
Not waiting until the last flower has died is the right approach. Cleaning up each bed, leaving those few flowers still flowering or those plants that look good is a way to start. This "first round" allows gardeners to see what also will need to be done as garden clean up continues. Often times there have been weeds lurking about hiding in the foliage of our perennials and maybe even annuals. If you are lucky, these weeds are annuals; remove them and they will pose no future problems. However, this season, gardeners have seen quite a few perennial weeds, like thistles and bindweed. If these grew from seed and do not have a well developed root system, then digging them out may be the end.
If you find a more established perennial weed, be sure you remember where you found it and plan on more vigorous weeding starting as soon as you see them emerge next spring. One such "weed" being reported and seen is that of Mulberry. Right now they are anywhere from an inch or two in size (likely from seed just this year) to six or eight inches tall (probably a two-year old seedling). First-year seedlings are easy to pull out. Older than that and a garden trowel or spade is in order to get enough of that root system out.
If you just cut the top off, it will be back!
Weeds in the vegetable garden are usually taken care of by fall tillage and incorporation of composts or other organic matter. There is a trend developing not to do a lot of tillage to leave the soil intact. The practice of minimal soil disturbance is a good one, yet over time perennial weeds can become a problem, so weed control early on, as the weeds are just developing, should be adopted.
If this wet weather has kept you from harvesting root crops, consider using composts or straw as a mulch over the rows to allow harvest into November and December. You will find vegetables can become sweeter using this technique. A deeper mulch that keeps the ground from eventually freezing can allow harvest even with snow cover in January. Think about having fresh carrots at Thanksgiving or Christmas – and the bragging rights to go with that.
You also can consider, if the soil allows, digging them all and healing them back in at the end of the garden for ease of access later, keeping them covered, of course, with straw or mulch.