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Here at the farm, it’s finally time for bed. Fall has been long and warm, which has been helpful as we scurry to button up the house. Lack of consistently cold weather has delayed the last of our garden chores, however. Several hard freezes with temperatures falling to at least 25 degrees are needed before tucking in the perennials with their winter mulch.

Yields from our vegetable gardens surpassed all expectations this year. Our baby apple trees settled themselves into the orchard and thrived. The flowers and herbs in our window boxes grew enthusiastically, well into the fall. Pots of annuals were so gorgeous as we approached frosts, I wished for a heated sun room, so I could bring them all inside.

The greatest delight is the condition of the soil in the gardens. Instead of appearing depleted, having given its all to support such a bountiful harvest, the soil is soft and rich and ready to go again. Mulching gardens, trees and all my container plants with Premium Ground Cover has made all the difference. (www.PremiumGroundCover.com) 100% natural and heat-treated to kill weed seeds, this mix of chopped straw, timothy and alfalfa hay is nutrient rich, and my plants and soil love it.

As cold weather approached, Premium Ground Cover was my obvious choice for protecting strawberries and other perennials from winter stress. The purpose of mulching perennials, particularly newly planted, shallow rooted and marginally hardy perennials is not to keep them warm, but to keep them cold. During inevitable temperature fluctuations and periodic winter thaws, soil expands and contracts, heaving plants upward, exposing tender crowns and roots to drying winds and cold. Several inches of loose mulch applied to the soil late in the fall helps keep soil temperatures cold, conserves soil moisture and provides protection from the wind. Additionally, mulched soil warms more slowly in the spring, keeping plants from breaking dormancy during an early warm spell.

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Putting down the mulch is a pleasure. It’s soft and chopped short, so it stays where I want it and does not blow away, even in the stiff wind blowing on the day we put our gardens to bed. The recyclable plastic bag is easy to close, so unused mulch is neatly stored for later.

We’re ready for winter now, I suppose. Long days outside in the gardens will be replaced with shorter days on the snowshoe trails. Inside, we’ll be researching insect pests, studying seed catalogs, and dreaming about next year’s gardens.

Good night, everybody.

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Henry, king of the farm, inspecting the mulch.

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