Winterize Your Yard and Garden
With winter just around the corner, now is the time to get your garden ready for spring.
In addition to raking the leaves and cleaning up the garden beds, this is when you need to plant tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs. This is also the time to protect your lawn and plants from the chilly nap they will be taking over the winter. Some fertilizing and soil preparation will also save you time and extra work come spring.
Cleaning up your garden not only makes it look tidier, it promotes healthy soil and thriving plants in spring.
Rake fallen leaves from the lawn – these can smother grass as they get wet down and mat down, encouraging disease and pest problems in spring.
- Sprinkle a bit of fertilizer over some of the leaves and till these into the soil to enrich it come spring.
- Keep your lawn short as winter approaches to ensure it doesn’t mat down.
- Remove and dispose of all plant debris that has been diseased or attacked by pets – this will discourage overwintering of insect eggs and plant disease organisms.
- Toss only plant debris that is disease- and pest-free into your compost.
- If you haven’t done so in the at least five years, have your soil tested for pH and fertilizer needs. The best time to add sulphur or lime to the soil to adjust its pH is now.
Feed your lawn
Fertilizing your lawn in late fall promotes healthy root growth and builds food reserves. Although top growth has stopped, roots will keep growing at temperatures above 0 degrees C.
Protect your perennials
Perennials can be damaged by severe cold and freeze/thaw cycles. Ones that you have recently planted or that are marginally hardy in your area need special care. It is usually a good idea to mulch all perennials. You may want to wait until spring to cut them back since the dead foliage helps trap snow, protecting the plants over the winter.
In late fall, cover perennials with a loose mulch of hay, straw or evergreen boughs. Leaves are not recommended because they become matted when wet and won’t trap air to properly insulate the soil. Remove mulch gradually in spring as the weather warms up.
Save your shrubs
Some plants need more than root protection over the winter, while others thrive on neglect. You’ll know which ones need more pampering by their appearance in spring. For example, foliage on some evergreens such as yew and hemlock is prone to browning or bleaching from winter sun and wind burns. Some sprays are available to coat sensitive foliage and prevent winter bum. The following tips also help:
- Thoroughly water the soil before the ground freezes – evergreens lose moisture through their foliage all winter.
- Use burlap or similar material to form an open-top barrier around sensitive shrubs; this will protect them while letting air and light through.
- Prop evergreen boughs against or over shrubs to protect them from wind and sun and to catch more snow.
Pamper the roses
Some popular hybrid roses aren’t hardy in cold climates and need help to survive cold winters. Mounding and mulching will prevent damage caused by wind and extreme cold. Here are some more tips:
- Prune dead or diseased canes.
- Before the soil freezes, mound soil, mulch or compost in an eight-inch or higher layer around the base of each rose bush.
- Once the ground has frozen, cut back long canes to about 18 inches and pull off any remaining leaves.
- Try enclosing each plant with a wire mesh filled with straw, finely chopped leaves, compost and any other loose, light insulating mulch – this will protect each bus from freeze/thaw cycles.
- Gradually remove the enclosure, mulch and soil at the base of each plant when the ground begins to thaw in spring.
Plant spring bulbs early
- Tulip, daffodil and other spring bulbs should be planted early in the fall to give their roots a chance to develop. Mix some bonemeal around their bases to give root growth a boost.
- Look around your entrance, walkway, driveway and other outdoor areas for empty spaces where colour is needed or would be welcome from an indoor view. Plant bulbs in these areas and watch your home come alive in spring.
- Plant bulbs as soon as possible after buying.
- Bulbs are planted pointed side up, three times as deep as they are high.
- For best effect, group or cluster the bulbs in various areas – group in uneven numbers of three to 15.
Bring some of your garden indoors
As the cold, grey days of winter set in, you can still enjoy some of the colour and pleasure of your garden by bringing a piece of it indoors. Annuals such as geraniums and begonias and many herbs can be placed in pots and brought indoors. Be sure to take the following precautions before doing so:
- Remove any dead or yellow foliage.
- Examine the plants carefully for any pests that might infest your indoor plants.
- Wash the outdoor plants down with soap and water to give them a good rinse. This will get rid of dust along with spiders and other insects.
- Introduce the plants to their new indoor environment gradually – bring them in for several hours a day to begin with.
- If you must move the plants indoors fast because of frost, provide a consistent source of light and place the pots on a dish of gravel mixed with water to provide steady moisture.