Q. How do I prepare my garden for the rain?Allen Davis, San Luis Obispo
A. Getting your garden in ship-shape before winter storms arrive will make your life a little less grueling in the spring. With the brisk fall weather, puttering in the yard is not without its joys. Fall signifies a slowing down, so take time to assess your garden. Consider past successes and failures. Sketching a rough plan will provide guidance for rain preparation, as well as jumpstart ideas for next year's possibilities.
Removing spent annuals is important at this time. Healthy remnants can be composted, but diseased specimens should be thrown away. If possible, leave roots of annuals in the ground. This will prevent erosion and add nutrients to the soil as decomposition takes place. Removing leaf detritus and tilling the soil discourages pests and rodents.
Before the rains hit, prune perennials. When pruning plants that you suspect may be diseased, make sure to use clean tools and a nine-to-one solution of water to bleach, before going to the next plant. This is also a good time of the year to sharpen and oil your pruners to prevent them from rusting during the rainy season.
This is a great time to plant perennials as they will receive ample irrigation and time to establish roots before spring. New rain is wonderful for plants, but will exacerbate weed invasions. A thorough weeding will put unwanted plants at bay. Replenish mulch where needed.
Leaves! As those beautiful leaves fall, remember to rake them up and deposit in the compost bin. Don't forget to clean out the leaves from your rain gutters as well. Clogged rain gutters end up overflowing into areas of your yard and foundation that can cause erosion, flooding and quite possibly damaging the walls of your home. Consider catching and using rainwater. Rainwater barrels or rain catch systems are becoming more popular and are generally easy to set up.
Fertilizing is beneficial at this time as plants are beginning to put energy into roots. Fertilize your cool-season lawn. If you have a warm-season lawn, it will be dry and brown during the winter and will not require fertilizing.
Most of all, enjoy those cool, slow days in the garden and when the first drops of rain appear, be glad you are prepared.