ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN
Terra cotta pots will look better after white salt deposits are removed.
Is your garden put to bed for the winter or are you like me and still have a few things left in the garden — and a pile of old blankets at the ready to cover the plants during cold nights?
Wooden containers might benefit from some cleaning and stain. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
Repair a stonewall that is disintegrating. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
Now is a good time to give a wooden obelisk a badly needed coat of stain. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
With plant material removed, trellises and arbours can be repaired and stained or painted.
(ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
Whether or not you have finished preparing your garden for winter or not, we will likely get some pleasant sunny days yet before freezeup and we will want to be outdoors enjoying the last days of autumn.
These final fall days might be a good time to take at some hardscape or building projects, or you might contemplate doing some repair work to some existing structures. The project might involve a renovation, adding a completely new feature to the garden or it might simply involve the cleaning and repairing that goes hand in hand with regular maintenance of a garden.
There are advantages to undertaking such projects at this time of year, one of them being that it gives you an excuse to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine — we will be housebound by Old Man Winter soon enough.
Secondly, think of how glad you will be next spring when you are scrambling to finish all your spring planting that you don’t have to tend to these tasks during the busy spring season.
Repairing stone and brick walls and curbing is one task that can be undertaken at this time of year. Adding cement to fasten loose stones in stonewalls, repositioning bricks which have moved out of place, and cleaning up stone or brick edging along beds and borders will ensure that these garden features look good come spring.
When using concrete at this time of year, you may have to cover it on cold nights to make sure that it cures properly. Lifting stone edging to remove grass and weeds is easier now that the plants are no longer growing.
Wooden objects and structures will benefit from a cleanup also; wooden trellises and obelisks might need a coat of stain or paint, which is easier to apply at this time of year because the plant material that usually covers them has been removed. See if you have space somewhere to store such objects indoors for the winter so that they will not weather during the long winter.
October is an ideal time to create a garden path, particularly one of concrete, brick, or flat stones — the ground is not yet frozen, so a good base for a pathway can be put down easily. Perhaps you have some old bricks or cement pads that you have had kicking around for a while and you are looking for a place to make use of them.
Wooden steps and decks might be in need of a good cleaning and some additional stain. Choose a sunny day that has a breeze to undertake this task, as you will want a pressure-washed deck to dry thoroughly before stain is applied and you will want applied stain to dry properly as well.
Fall is a good time to do some editing of your garden artefact collection — those items that you have accumulated over a period of several years and keep adding to and adding to. Perhaps it is time to let some of them go.
Discard any items so weathered that they are no longer attractive or objects that simply no longer fit into the mood of your garden. Dispose of items that are broken, chipped, or cracked.
Take a good look at your containers; are they dirty, discoloured, in need of repair?
Plastic and concrete containers might benefit from a good scrubbing to remove unsightly stains and marks before being stored away for the winter, while terra cotta pots no doubt will have white mineral deposits on them that detract from their appearance.
Wooden containers might need some repair and possibly require a cleaning and staining. Ditto for wooden fencing.
Wrought-iron fencing and railings could no doubt do with a good cleaning. If rust is evident, it can be removed with a wire brush and the spots repainted.
Finally, don’t forget your garden tools — make sure they are properly cleaned and sharpened before they are put into storage. Those prone to rust might benefit from being rubbed down with an oily cloth.
A final chore might involve erecting fencing to keep the deer away from vulnerable shrubs and trees during the winter. Do this job now rather than in January after some damage has been done.
As you can see, there is much to keep us busy outdoors in our yards until the snow flies. If you tend to these tasks now, your garden will go into the winter in fine shape and emerge in the spring well ready for another gardening season.
Albert Parsons is a consultant for garden design and landscaping who lives in Minnedosa.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 18, 2012