JoAnne Skelly: Autumn garden ideas |

JoAnne Skelly: Autumn garden ideas

By JoAnne Skelly

Snow and cold, oh boy! The leaves still remaining on the ground are heavy and soggy, so no raking for a bit. That’s good news. The ground is moist again, so more good news.

I got the tools, hoses, sprinklers and patio furniture put away before the storms. We turned off and drained the main sprinklers in time. So far, so good.

Once it’s a bit drier, we will mow the lawn as short as possible to eliminate some of the hiding places for the voles, which are tunneling all over the lawn. We have a neighborhood cat that’s been hunting them, and I hope he’s very successful!

There are definitely more leaves to gather and put on the leaf pile, which, happily, has been compressed with the snow allowing room for the neverending addition of more leaves.

My husband and I will get out one nice day and start sawing off limbs on the pines and spruces. I plan on climbing up into the crabapple and cutting off as many of the water sprouts (upward-growing branches) that I can reach. The apple trees need attention, but I’m waiting until the leaves fall off so I can see which branches to remove.

I think we may have a skunk living under our shop. Surely, the hole and tunnel we see is far too big for just a ground squirrel? The mousetraps are set in the RV and the cats are hunting in the house, so we might be able to keep the mice at bay there. With the apples all picked, hopefully the bears will stay away.

We have gutters to clean, tools to sharpen and oil, and mowers to drain and winterize. My husband will get the snowblower and tractor ready for the eventual big dumps of snow (we hope). I already have my trusty snow shovel by the back door.

Once the outside fall chores are completed, it will be time for a long winter’s rest. And then we start all over again.

But, if you are looking for a winter garden activity, I recommend planting an indoor herb garden by a sunny window. Parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, chives and rosemary are good options. Plant a bunch of different kinds in one container with drainage holes or keep in separate containers to accommodate different water needs. Use a quick-draining potting soil, give plenty of light and don’t overwater. Then, enjoy!

JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at