We had our first frost and freeze warning the first weekend of November, and as a gardener living in South Carolina, I consider this pretty early for such intense cold. I woke up one morning and actually had to scrape the frost off my wife’s car. The next day, flurries and accumulating snow covered my neighborhood, breaking a 130-year-old meteorological record and making national headlines. Snow came to South Carolina before even our family and friends in much colder climates throughout the Midwest and Northeast experienced it. Because it was Halloween weekend, scary snowmen with carved jack-o’-lantern heads were found haunting a couple front yards!
The cold weather means that most of my summer crops in the ground or in containers have officially stopped producing. Only a few eggplants and two Sun Gold cherry tomato vines are still barely holding on. My peppers and late cucumber plantings were burnt by the cold and have died back along with the rest of my remaining temperate crops.
As a front-yard gardener in an urban neighborhood, I need to keep my plot relatively tidy so as not to upset the neighbors on either side of me with manicured yards, the loads of pedestrians traversing our sidewalks and the active homeowners associate looking for infractions. To keep the grass and yard lovers happy, I make an honest effort to remove and compost old plantings soon after they die back.
Pulling dead plants, raking debris and cultivating the open soil in the garden are some of the most important garden tasks for me this time of year. Removing old plants and turning the soil with a hoe or a tiller helps organic growers eliminate overwintering nuisance insects by disturbing adults, larva or their eggs from their preferred winter shelter, keeping unwanted insects like adult stinkbugs or the cocoons of the notorious squash vine borer at bay. Your efforts in the late fall or winter will mean that next year’s crop may have fewer residual pests from the previous growing season. Not only does the garden look better after an intensive cleanup, it also helps makes room for some additional late-fall and winter plantings, which I keep meaning to plant (maybe next weekend!).
Winterizing your outdoor spigots and hoses is another task that you should start thinking about now. If you have a separate shut-off for your outdoor spigots, go ahead and turn them off before winter arrives. Once the water is off, open the valve to drain any remaining water, and remove all attached hoses. Drain the hoses, neatly coil them, and disconnect any nozzles or sprayer attachments. Hang your hoses and any attachments on the wall of a dry shed or basement so that everything will be ready for next spring.