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End-of-Season Panic Gardening


I am in end-of-season panic mode in my gardens. Shortening days and cooler temperatures signal time is running out before snow covers my landscape in a blanket of white.

For those of you who haven’t followed my blog from the beginning, I am in the process of reclaiming my yard and my life after years of working 70- to 80-hour work weeks and letting my once beautiful gardens become battlefields.

Polite perennials didn’t stand a chance against the ambush of weedy combatants who, after this mission was complete, advanced into any unoccupied space. Setting their sights on a complete garden take-over, the enemy waged wars against sturdier perennials. Some survived; others surrendered. Even some perennial overachievers, once thought of as allies, became adversaries without my attention. Self-seeders dispersed their progeny with abandon. War in the garden was brutal. Triage and applying lessons learned was all I had to offer the living.

This project of renewal will take time – five years, I figure – but progress is satisfying. All season long and little by little, the landscape improves. Energized by momentum, I don’t want a four-month recess. As a result, I am in a frenzy to get as much done as possible before a mandatory work stoppage is forced upon me.


I am a list maker. Checking an item off a list once it’s completed is both rewarding and motivating. Here’s my checklist for the end of this season. I break up tasks into small pieces or garden areas. Some items may take numerous hours to complete, but many can be accomplished in thirty minute increments.

My compost bins overflow with garden debris by the end of fall. I never compost flowers, foliage, fruits or veggies that showed any signs of disease.
My compost bins overflow with garden debris by the end of fall. I never compost flowers, foliage, fruits or veggies that show any signs of disease.

Typical garden tasks on my list include harvesting remaining vegetables before frost claims them, cleaning out containers and storing them in the shed, filling up compost bins with plant and pumpkin remains, cleaning tools, and getting the last shrubs and perennials in the ground.


Planting bulbs in pots is a job done in November, usually while watching a football game. I throw an old blanket on the family room floor and plant up several pots of bulbs that, after resting in the garage all winter, adorn the front porch and decks with spring color. Here’s how if you missed the earlier blog post.

The top photo was taken before final weeding and cutting back of most perennials. Cutting back hosta foliage exposes slugs and their eggs to hungry toads and other predators. The bottom photo shows the same garden ready for its winter nap. Notice some hostas with fall color have been spared and the fallen maple leaves are left in the garden.

There are two camps of gardeners regarding garden clean up. One group believes cleaning up the garden should wait until spring, leaving seed heads to provide food for birds and garden debris to host a variety of wildlife and beneficial microorganisms. Other gardeners prefer a clean slate offering reasons of aesthetics and limiting hideouts for insects or diseases.

Time is the deciding factor in my decision to clean up half of the gardens in fall, saving the other half for spring. There is not enough time for me to clean all the gardens in fall (and I don’t want to deprive songbirds of winter rations) and I am even more time-starved in spring. This clean up compromise works for me.

I wake up every morning and consult the checklist. It’s amazing how much a gardener can do in thirty minutes. Taking advantage of snippets of time before work or after dinner (sometimes with a flashlight), small goals are met and items checked off the list.


How do you feel about the end of the season? Do you welcome the chance to take a break from the garden? Or are you gardening as fast as you can like me? Share your end-of-season garden stories and garden with me!





2 thoughts on “End-of-Season Panic Gardening

  1. I never thought of it that way but “panic gardening” is exactly what it is. I have such hopes of getting everything done and then I am running around in panic that I can’t get to it all. If I just take it in small pieces, I think I can do it. Great advice.

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