Last fall I planted my first cover crop. Like most urban gardeners, I thought cover crops were only for large scale farms. Farms like my granddaddy tended that were acres and acres wide. So I was surprised to learn that cover crops are perfect for urban gardens like yours and mine.
Asters are perennials, which means they will return to your home garden year after year. Their star-shaped blooms offer a vibrant display of color from summer to frost in late fall. Asters have become a particular favorite of mine because they bring a needed pop of color to my garden just when the zinnias, cosmos and sunflowers are beginning to fade. Plus, they offer a late season food source for bees, butterflies and other pollinators with nectar and pollen as they prepare for winter.
Although Asters are very easy to grow (full sun, moist well-drained soil), there are a few simple things you can do to prepare them for winter to help ensure they make a grand entrance next summer. Of course you can choose to leave Asters and other fall perennials alone over winter, as many plants prepare themselves for winter by taking cues from Mother Nature. But if you opt for a bit of tidying up and overwintering care, then here a few things you may want to do to help your Asters thrive this winter.
- Water the soil around your asters several days before the first freeze.
- Cut the stems back ~6-8 inches above the ground. Leave the lower stems/leaves alone.
- Cover your asters with 2 to 3 inches of organic matter such as mulch, dried leaves, straw, or hay. Adding a layer of insulation protects the roots from sudden changes in soil temperature (freezing or thawing) during the winter months.
At the first sign of growth in spring, pull away the mulch. Your Asters are preparing for a comeback!
Peace and zen,
This summer I upped my gardening game by delving into designing themed flowerbeds. First on my list was to create a beautiful space that would attract pollinators, especially Monarch butterflies, to my home garden. It’s quite amazing how vital bees, butterflies and other pollinators are to the viability of the human food supply. Without these little creatures, we would not enjoy the abundance of food we too often take for granted every day. With a little effort, I was able to turn my backyard into a sanctuary of plants that support the existence of native pollinator species.