You’ve cared for your garden all year, taking the time to fertilize, mulch, plant, water and prune your lovely garden specimens, so why stop now that winter is on its way?
Late fall can be a very busy time for many gardeners, as this is a prime time to clean up, cut back, mulch and water your landscape before the snow begins to fly and the temperatures begins to dip.
When to Begin Winterizing Efforts
You should begin to winterize your garden when temperatures hover in the low 40s to mid 30s. Begin by assessing the garden as a whole, as this is a great time to move plants that have grown too close together (or those you simply want to move), plant bulbs for a burst of spring color, plant your bare-root shrubs and trees and divide your perennials.
If you recognize that your garden was lacking some late-flowering plants in the spring, now is a good time to plant some. Some good choices include black-eyed susans, asters, sedum and hydrangeas. Although some plants are ideal for fall planting, be aware that some of the less hearty plants may not make it through the winter. Ask your local nursery or landscape center for recommendations on which plants to get in the ground this fall.
Clean Your Garden Before Winter
Now it’s time to clean up. This includes removing weeds and spent annuals and removing diseased leaves from the plants and shrubs. This is not the time, however, to prune your trees and shrubs. This may encourage new growth, which will be quickly killed during the first frost.
You should also remove any non-hearty bulbs at this time, including dahlias, cannas and gladiolus. After removing them from the ground, let them dry out in the sun for a few hours before storing them in a cool, dark place for the winter.
Start a Compost Pile
If you are considering a compost pile, now is a great time to start one, considering you have plenty of yard waste as a foundation. You can start one now and enjoy nutrient-rich compost in your garden by next summer. Do not, however, add any diseased plant material to your compost pile, as this could simply spread the disease throughout the compost pile.
Carefully Inspect and Care for the Plants
Now that the majority of leaves have fallen from your trees and plants, it is a good time to check the plants carefully (you may also want to employ the services of a horticulturalist to examine them, as well) for signs of disease.
Cut your perennials back to about 6 to 8 inches from the ground if they are unsightly. Some perennials, however, are quite attractive during their dormant stage, while others provide food for birds over the winter.
Add Mulch and Water After the First Frost
Mulching your beds after the first frost with about 4 to 6 inches of mulch is a great way to maintain the temperature of the soil and to protect your plants from the extreme cold temperatures throughout the winter.
Finally, give all of your plants a good watering before the ground freezes to provide them with additional nourishment before they go into dormancy.