How to protect your plants and garden from the harsh weather of winter
Winterizing you garden does not mean adding on decorations to make your garden resemble a "winter wonderland". Simply put, it means preparing your garden for the cold winter months ahead. There are a lot of newbie gardeners who think that the end of summer means the end of their gardens. Preparing your garden for the winter would mean a better looking garden in the dead of winter, better protection for less hardy plants and less work for you to do in the garden when spring comes.
Remember that gardening does not end when the first frost comes in. Contrary, a different kind of "gardening" is the case. Winterizing your garden would help your perennials and annuals grow faster in the spring. You should understand that any plant that is not killed up front when frost hits prepare for winter too. Underground activity has not stopped for such plants. Tree, shrubs, annuals, and bulbs are preparing for winter by growing roots and sucking up water and nutrients from the soil before soil is frozen.
When is the right time to "close" the garden and prepare it for winter? The usual time is at end of October up until the first week of November. As temperature in various temperate zones vary it is best to winterize your garden once the temperature goes down to 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or 4 degrees Celsius.
Assess Your Garden
Before you plunge on winterizing your garden, take a good look at your existing plants and flowers and see what thrived and did not thrive in your garden. Fall is the time to relocate and move about your plants and flowers. It is the time to remove plants that wasting space in the garden and wasting your time and effort. You must learn to admit that there would be some plants that will not "live" under your care no matter what. Fall is also the time to plant bulbs (tulips) and bare-root trees and shrubs. Divide your perennials into different groupings as they would be your tools for plant propagation come spring.
There are some late-flowering plants that you might want to add before finally closing your garden for the winter. These late-bloomers will grow roots during the winter. Some of these plants are: black-eyed Susan and Aster.
Now that you have evaluated your garden in readiness for closing it down for the winter, the following steps are necessary for winterizing your garden.
Clean up the Garden before Winter
Why is there a need to clean up the garden? Experienced gardeners actually do nothing to prepare their garden for the winter for they know that the garden would be fine as is. The only problem is that there would be a lot of work to do when spring comes. For an easier transition into spring, it is best to clean up your garden as part of winterizing. Pull out weeds. Mow out the lawn. Remove dry and decayed leaves and add them to the compost. Take out bulbs like dahlias and gladiolas from the ground and dry them a bit before storing them in a cool and dry place for the winter. When adding the dry leaves and twigs to the compost, make sure they are not diseased as they might compromise the whole compost.
Prune the plants and shrubs
Pruning is one thing that you can do to encourage healthy growth when spring comes. It is best done when the shrubs appear dormant. It is best to prune shrubs that bloom in the spring immediately after flowering and it is best to prune summer blooming plants when they are in a latent state. It is not ideal to prune late during the growing season as the new growth will be damaged by frost. Cut at a slight angle about ¼ inch from the branch when pruning. If you think you can't properly do the job, hire a seasoned gardener for the task. Prepare some burlap as there are shrubs that need to be wrapped for protection against frost. Mulch is an integral part when providing insulation for the winter, the mulch will not necessarily keep the plants "warm" but it will help keep the temperature around the plants consistent. Don't fertilize your trees and shrubs now. Wait until spring.
Grass may appear to have stopped growing in the fall but the roots are growing deeper into the grounds as preparation for winter. This is the best time to fertilize and reseed your lawn. Fertilize the lawn during early autumn and then again in the last week of October. The two feedings will help boosts the grass immunity to frost and snow.
If there are bare patches in the lawn, reseed in early autumn. This procedure would ensure that your lawn will be green and lush when spring comes. Keep the new sod moist for the first week. Water the sod as needed after that.
Continue pulling out weeds. Pull them out while still young before they form seeds. If they already have seed heads, don't mix the weeds with the compost.
Plant bulbs, trees and shrubs
It is best to plant bulbs like tulips, daffodils, crocus hyacinths and other bulbs early fall for root growth. Mulch should be applied over the bulbs to level the soil temperature and help in root growth. Early fall is also the ideal time to plant trees, shrubs and evergreens. The best time for the planting is from mid August to early October to promote root growth. Deciduous trees and shrubs are best planted after mid-October while plants in containers can be planted anytime during the summer or early fall.
If you have a pool or spa, drain the water and cover the pool to keep out animals, leaves and other debris. Hire a pool cleaner for the job if you must.
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