The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Indian Summer is time to mulch perennials

Colored blueberry leaves

Indian Summer is the perfect time to weed, feed, and mulch woody perennials for the year. We've already had a week of killing freezes, so topdressing with compost now won't tempt our bushes and trees to put out new growth that will get nipped by winter cold. On the other hand, perennials' roots are still reputed to be quite active at this time of year...and will stay active even longer if sheltered with some insulative mulch.

Winter berry patch

So while the weather is warm enough to make pushing my fingers into rich, black dirt a pleasure, I'm weeding the perennials as fast as I can. But I spared a moment to spread rye seeds and a light coating of straw in areas where I'd ripped out winterkilled rabbiteye blueberries. The soil there is chockful of organic matter due to years of topdressing, and I haven't quite decided what will eventually fill the empty beds.

What's next? I've still got quite a bit of weeding left to get the perennials in order. But after that I'll block off sprouting weeds with a thin layer of newspaper, then hold that down with deep bedding from the goat or chicken coop. A similar round of kill mulching (anchored by pulled weeds that time) in early summer made the fall weed-and-feed expedition much simpler. Here's hoping the winter round holds up as well.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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