Gardening After The Frost: Get Started, Pile High, Make Decisions

We've had a killing frost.

We know it's over. We know we can't go back.

We can't undo the frost.

Today in the garden was a time to get started on fall clean up, to pile high the compost and make decisions on what goes and what stays as the gardening season now rapidly winds down here at May Dreams Gardens.

We've had a killing frost.

Get Started

The first thing I did today in the garden was to clean up some of the bigger rocks that I found while digging holes for my new trees on Friday so I could use them in the miniature garden as edging.That may seem like an odd task to start fall clean up with, but it needed to be done. Does it really matter what you do first when doing fall clean up as long as you just get started and it all gets done? Plus, this was one task that I was able to start and finish quickly, giving me that sense of accomplishment, that joy that people of my type experience when they check something off their 'to do' list, even if that list is in our heads. Just get started, do something, don't lament what was, get started on cleaning up the garden to prepare for what will be. Get started.

Pile High

After I got started and finished up my first task, I turned my attention to clearing up those plants that were clearly killed off by the frost.I pulled out impatiens, corn stalks and all the pepper and tomato plants, and piled them up in one of my three compost bins. Don't be afraid to pile up the plant material as high as you can. Now is definitely not the time to scrimp on the compost pile and start bagging plant material to put in the trash. My compost bin sides are about three feet tall and this new pile rises above the sides by at least two feet. Compost will happen and before you know it, this pile will be half the size it is now. Really, it's like a miracle. Pile high.

Make Decisions

While cleaning up one of the planting beds, I found this catnip where I thought I had dug up all the catnip to give to my sister.
As you clean up the garden, you'll have to make a lot of decisions, like what to do with this catnip. Should I weed it out or let it stay? I also found more ribbon grass and a bunch of four o' clock seedlings nearby. I definitely pulled those out. Then I decided to leave the catnip so I can transplant it someplace else next spring. As I go from bed to bed, I'll be faced with a myriad of similar decisions to make. Cut something back or leave it be? Dig out unwanted seedlings or let them go to transplant in the spring? Add compost or leave bare? Make decisions.

And before I know it, after just a few more days of working in the garden, I'll be ready for winter. I'll just keep reminding myself to get started, pile high and make decisions. Repeat after me... "Get started, pile high, make decisions".

And don't forget to plant the bulbs.

(Someday soon, I'll post about handmade gifts for the gardener.)


  1. carol - it sounds like i had a similar day although i have a feeling your decision making is much faster than mine. at some point i was just wondering around my backyard waiting for devine intervention. my catnip as taken over an entire section of my garden! what do i do? I suppose it's too late to move it now.

    thanks for the pile high suggestion. I think I'm going to need to go out and purchase something to pile all this dead stuff in. my new composter isnt nearly large enough. Have a great week, carol!

  2. We are supposed to get that frost tonight. And bulbs . . . now I remember! I was weeding that one section of the garden so I could plant the corydalis I had been given. But by the time I had finished weeding, it was time to cook supper, and when supper was done, it was dark. That was Thursday, and the corydalis still aren't planted. I envy you your ability to stay on task.

  3. Hi Carol,
    As we were driving in the car today, my hubby proudly announced when our first killing frost was anticipated. Like it was something to be happy about! Then, I read your blog. Okay, Okay, I get it. The killing frost is coming, or in your case, has come. Really, I will be alright. It's all part of lifecycle. I really have no place in my little yard for a compost bin, but it would make me much happy to see my dearly departed plants nourished the newest little darlings!

  4. It's time for fall clean up here too.
    We just do it a little differently.
    It sounds like you've been working very hard.
    You are so organized.
    I really admire you.
    Go Carol.
    I'm still in bed with the flu. So working in the garden seems like a distant dream to me.

  5. Sad to see the impatiens go. They get limp and turn black so quickly it's as if the frost burns them.

  6. I bagged up my garden waste tonight and it makes me sick to throw it away, but I'm visible from all sides and can't have a "garbage" pile. I couldn't make myself put it on the street. I just might keep those trash bags and try to conceal them somehow. Oh the desperation of a gardener with compost envy.

  7. I love your mantra! As you saw when we had lunch a few short weeks ago, we're a little behind your weather here in Austin, but maybe not too far. Our forecast may have us getting a frost in the next week or so, and I am SOOOOO not prepared. Every year I run around with sheets and try to salvage things because I know it could be another month or more before a second frost, and it just seems like a waste for things to be dead before it's REALLY winter! But when the time comes, I will repeat after you, Get started, pile high, make decisions...get started...!!!!

  8. Bulbs...bulbs...I have to buy some bulbs...

    And I have so much else to do...yikes. In some ways, the frost is helpful because it inspires me to move forward and get it done.

  9. Transplant catnip? My rambunctious plants make those decisions for themselves and pop up all over the garden willy-nilly. I know you make yours behave.

  10. Since I've been whining all summer about not having a garden, I guess now is the time that I should be chipper that I have no fall clean up to do. Although I'm deep in trying to wedge in time to do some fall planting, wishing I had places to put bulbs yet and all that. Plus, you know? I kind of miss that fall tucking in process. Next year! ~A :-)

  11. Had a flask image of you standing on top calling out, 'I;m the queen of the castle....' lol

  12. frost on the flowers is so pretty I hope they survive.

  13. I did a lot of piling this weekend. I've been letting the grass grow for over a month and watching the neighbors massive silver maple - this weekend I mowed and mowed and mowed - bags of green wet grass and dry brown leaves nicely shredded and mixed in the lawn mower are now rotting into lovely compost!!

    My beds are clean - what I need to do now is weed in the perennial beds - if I can weed them before the first snow I will feel truly accomplished.

    Oh and if I could rest assured that my mole is gone!!

  14. I am plum worn out by all of your decision making and piling high. I need to get in gear since frost near. Your post is a great motivater.

  15. Most of the colorful flowers are gone except the mums, so just look up and admire all the pretty leaves. We're getting more tree color than expected (because of the drought) so just look up & enjoy.

  16. Though we have not had a killing frost, it is eminent. I felt I needed to get started on my garden chores anyway this weekend...and do it while I could enjoy some fall sunshine! So I pulled out all the tomatoes, peppers, beans, sunflowers, zinnias, etc. and my "pile" ended up being almost as tall as me! Now I can put the beds to bed in their cozy cover of leaves.

  17. Interesting how we're mostly all reporting the same thing, frost-wise. We had what I'd call a quasi-killing frost last night, more a case of cold due to wind than frost as such. I was just out to get wood for the stove and had a look around, and definitely the more tender annuals are depressed. Some things still look okay.
    And I got a little work done yesterday--one bed mostly cleaned and a few dozen bulbs planted. One day at a time, one bed at a time is my litany these days.

  18. Sad to see but after all that work is time to relax and plan for next year, sometimes I wish I could do that. Gardening year around can be a bit exhausting

  19. Sposed to happen here but it didn't. Maybe not until next week--mid-60s tomorrow.

    This is by far the mildest fall I've seen in this area!

  20. I've already planted some bulbs, though I'm not expecting a frost for another month. After we get one, and the plants are cut back, I can get busy repainting the fence. And putting compost on the garden. And redesigning certain areas. And so on and so on.

  21. No frost here yet nor any at the site which is even further north. The impatiens and coleus are looking great. Even so, I'm feeling behind (despite your admonitions).

  22. Gina... I've been gardening a lot longer than you so I should make decisions faster. I think it is getting a bit late to move the catnip. Do it early in the spring when it starts to sprout again.

    Kathy... Perhaps I stay on task because I have far fewer interruptions than you have!

    Gardenmomma (Chris)... It's time, that's why it is good to have a killing frost. If it has been in September or early October, it would have been much less welcome.

    Chigiy at Gardener's Anonymous... Each gardener has her/his own style, don't they? I'm sorry to hear you are still sick. Get well soon.

    Ki... I still have some impatiens on the front porch, where they are protected at least for a while. They look a little 'burnt' but I'm not ready to empty those containers yet.

    Robin's Nesting Place... You should try to keep a few of those bags over the winter to see if you get some compost. And since when is a compost bin a "garbage" pile. Some people need to learn some garening!

    Diana... I agree, when a frost is really, really early it may be worth covering some plants so they can continue on.

    Genie... Yes, don't forget the bulbs. You'll thank yourself in the spring.

    LostRoses... I wish I could make my plants behave!

    Angela (cottage magpie)... I agree, it just feels 'complete' to finish up the garden in the fall.

    Bare Bones Gardener... I'm queen of the compost!

    Joyismygoal... They did not survive. Impatiens rarely do.

    Me... I'm envious of your grass/leaf mixture and that you are done cleaning up the beds for winter!

    Lisa at Greenbow... I know, it seems like a lot to do every year!

    Connie... I feel a 'contest' forming. Who has the tallest mulch pile?

    Jodi... that's the way to get it done. One bed at a time.

    Rusty in Miami... I do enjoy the 'down time', the time to plan for next year.

    EAL... I am surprised we had frost before Buffalo. Do you have snow about 300 days out of the year there?

    Pam/digging... And so on and on on is right. There is always something to do, especially in zones like yours.

    Earth Girl... I feel more behind today than yesterday. Odd that we got frost, but you didn't. Maybe tonight?

    Thanks all for the nice comments!
    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  23. Oh, No! I am completely unprepared! It was HOT last week and I woke up this morning to a light, patchy frost. I need to make some decisions, real fast.

  24. A task that I am not ready for. But when frost hits us It is needing done. Time to put up and shut up(the garden).


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