Halloween In The Garden: When Plants Become Dormant For Winter

By Mary H. Dyer | November 1, 2020
by Mary H. Dyer
November 1, 2020

I love Halloween and all the fun, spooky things that go along with it. I love getting dressed up in crazy costumes, and I like to watch the kids out trick-or-treating. But once this time of year rolls around and all the fun ends, the plant dormancy period in the garden begins – at least for me.

Prepping for Post Halloween Activities

When I was in my twenties, my best friend lived in an old, rickety, two-story house. The house wasn’t haunted at all. In fact, it was owned by a sweet old couple who died within hours of one another – one in a hospital and one in a nursing home. It seems like they just knew it was time, and they left together.

The house had good vibes and we had interesting parties, often revolving around the Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Rocky Horror Picture Show. Sometimes, we’d have our own haunted house and invite the neighborhood kids for a walk-through, with a creepy “nurse” as a tour guide. We even parked an old hearse out front. That really added to the scare factor.

So, I’ve had many memorable Halloweens, but they never had much to do with gardening. Usually, by this time, gardens are being tucked in for the season. I don’t live where people do traditional autumn things like making apple cider or constructing cornstalk mazes (this is wheat country), although a local church might invite the town kids to a hayride.

That’s all folks!

There aren’t a lot of trees here in the high desert, and most don’t turn color in autumn – they go from green to gone, and skip the gold and red in-between. Any brave trees that turn color in autumn have already done their thing.

October weather is unpredictable. Even if the entire previous week had been amazingly warm, you could bet money that Halloween would be cold and blustery – maybe even spitting snow. Kids here are accustomed to covering their adorable little princess or spiderman costumes with heavy coats, and sometimes even mittens and earmuffs. The nights are usually frosty by this time, but if you’re lucky, the jack-o-lantern on the front step might last through the holiday before collapsing into a mushy mess.

In my mind, Halloween and gardening definitely don’t go together. Instead, it signals a time for post Halloween garden activities – like cleanup. I empty my pots and put them away soon after the annuals freeze. I water perennials well, including all my evergreen trees and shrubs. Otherwise, I leave perennials in for the birds and deer, and clean up what’s left in spring. Halloween in the garden for me is the time when plants, and people, begin to go dormant for the winter.

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