My annuals have turned brown–I believe I mentioned once before that I like to eek every last bloom from them before pulling them out for the season–and my perennials have mostly followed in their wake. Now it’s time to collect seeds for next season. If your plants are totally brown and dried, you can put the seed pods into plastic bags and seal them away for now. If there is still some green, lay them out on a flat surface like a cookie sheet for a few days until they are thoroughly dried before bagging them up.
Some seeds are released long before the growing season ends, but if you haven’t harvested your poppies, hollyhocks, and other plants, make sure you do before you pull or cut them back for the season. Another option for some plants is to pull annuals up by the root and give them a good shake over the area where you want them to return the next year. If you plan to mulch the bed for the winter, lay your layer of shredded leaves or straw over the seeds, then clear it away in the spring and scratch up the soil so the seeds will get covered with soil. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
Calla Lilies, dahlias and other tender tubers can be dug up for the winter. Make sure there are no bad spots on the root, then store them in pine chips or saw dust in a cool, dry place for the winter. These plants won’t survive freezing temperatures, but I expect when I get my dahlia’s pulled they’ll still be good next season even though it got into the twenties last week.
Remember those leaves make a great mulch, protecting your plant roots from the constant freeze and thaw of winter, and add great nutrients to the garden bed. It’s best if you shred them first, which can be as simple as running the lawnmower over them a couple of times. Whatever you do, don’t leave them on the grass through the winter as they can mat down and kill out spots in your yard. Also, don’t forget to add fall fertilizer–just because the grass turns brown, doesn’t mean the roots die, and your lawn will come back healthier for a little fall boost.