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Dig In!
November 10, 2011, 04:36 AM By Joan Tharp

It’s time to clean up the garden, and get some semblance of order to our potting sheds and tool storage corners, before rain starts in earnest.

Pull up vegetables and flowers that are finished or past their prime. Rake leaves. Watch for weeds, especially the youngsters that are sprouting, thanks to our recent showers. Stack outside or bring inside all of your clay pots, and organize those scattered messes of gardening paraphernalia that accumulates during the spring and summer. You don’t want to leave nooks for snails and slugs to hang out all winter.

Clean and put away the gardening tools you are unlikely to use in the winter. Remove all soil. Make sure they are completely dry before you store them. Give the metal parts a light coating of oil, such as WD-40. Now also is a great time to feed your garden soil by adding compost. Whether you have our area’s typical clay soil, or sandy soil like that in many parts of Foster City, compost improves its structure: it makes clay soils more porous and adds heft to sandy soils so that they retain water and nutrients.

In a future column, I will describe in more detail how you can make your own compost. If you don’t want to make your own, you can purchase compost from a number of local sources, including gardening centers and Lyngso Garden Materials in Redwood City.

Add a layer of compost that is about two inches deep. Dig it in to a depth of six to eight inches, or simply spread it over the top of the soil and let it work its way down over the winter.

If you have clay soil and you plan on digging it in, do so soon, before the soil gets too wet. You shouldn’t work wet clay soil because it will become compacted.

Finally, after you have added compost, top it with several inches of mulch. Mulch helps rainwater penetrate into the soil instead of running off, and suppresses weeds.

Rose beds are on a slightly later schedule. Pick up fallen leaves as they accumulate, but wait until pruning time in January to add compost and mulch.

For information on composting, visit the website of San Mateo County’s RecycleWorks

Joan Tharp is a University of California Cooperative Extension master gardener. She lives in San Mateo. She can be reached at

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