Prepare Your Garden for Winter!!
Fall is an amazing season filled with colorful leaves, hot apple cider, and the anticipation of the first snow; then comes winter, the season of snow and ice. As winter comes to an end, you begin to crave the beauty and color of spring.
But wait! What has happened to your beautiful gardens? They’re full of weeds, your prized dahlias are dead, and your evergreen shrubs are all brown and shriveled. So, you go to the tool shed to perform damage control, only to find that all your tools are rusty and their handles are cracked. You ask yourself, “Why did this happen to me?” The answer is simple; you forgot to winterize your garden and care for your tools.
Preparing your garden, lawn, and tool shed for winter is an essential fall activity that starts in September and lasts through December.
- One of the most important things you can do to prepare your lawn and flower beds for winter is to give them a deep and thorough watering before the ground freezes. This will provide the plants with the water they need to survive through winter.
- Fertilize your beds in the fall with a slow-release organic fertilizer such as Plant-tone or Holly-tone. André prefers organic fertilizers because they distribute nutrients evenly over time, preventing plants from growing too early in the winter or spring. He doesn’t recommend inorganic fertilizers since they tend to work very quickly, jump starting growth too early.
- When nightly temperatures begin to go below 55°F, it is important to move any tender bulb perennials and tropical plants indoors. Tender bulbs include dahlias, cannas, gladiolus, calla lilies, and Caladium. Store bulbs in a cardboard box filled with peat moss and keep in a frost-free place.
- When your plants have finished blooming for the year, you can cut them back and compost them. Bag up and throw away any plant foliage that looks diseased, has powdery mildew, or insect damage since this could contaminate your garden next year. It is especially important to cut back and throw out peony foliage as peonies are prone to fungal diseases.
- Leave the stems of taller Sedums, ornamental grasses, and the seed pods of Yucca, poppies, and Siberian Iris because they look nice throughout winter even after their flowers are gone.
- Do not cut back ornamental grasses, Buddleia, Crape Myrtle, Callicarpa, or Caryopteris until spring after the danger of frost. In spring after the threat of cold weather, cut the shrubs back until you reach a green stem or to 12"-18".
- Fall is a great time for weeding too. By doing your weeding in the fall, you get a great head start on spring weeds and hopefully prevent current weeds from seeding. You will also benefit from cooler temperatures!
- Mulching is highly recommended to keep plants from heaving and to protect the crowns of more tender plants. Mulch is great for keeping down weeds and keeping the soil evenly moist throughout winter. You can use anything from bark to pine needles.
- Protect your evergreen shrubs from drying in the bitter winds of winter. Spray the foliage of broad-leaved evergreen shrubs in exposed positions with an anti-desiccant spray such as Bonide Wilt Stop. Boxwood and junipers are particularly prone to wind burn.
- Clean dirt off tools to prevent them from rusting. Sharpen any tools that need it. Tools with wooden handles should be rubbed down with a mixture of two parts boiled linseed oil to one part paint thinner or turpentine to keep them from cracking.
- Take an afternoon to organize your tool shed. Inventory your supply of herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides. Make sure they are well sealed in their original containers and locked in an area away from curious children and pets.
- Drain the gas from all machines. Interestingly enough, winter is the best time to service your lawn mower and tiller. There is typically a much quicker turn around time in winter and since you won’t need them, it’s much more convenient for you.
Contributed by Melissa Jones