Friday, November 19, 2010

Winterizing Your Garden: 12 Helpful Tips

As seasons change and the temperatures are dropping here in the northeast, it's time to prepare your garden for its winter sleep.  Preparing your garden for winter is essential in any climate in which the temperatures drop below freezing (Hardiness Zones 1-9).  Regular garden maintenance will ensure the health and beauty of your landscape for years to come.  Here are twelve helpful tips.

1. Remove leaves from the lawn and garden.  Leaves left over winter can harbor fungal disease and damage your lawn or perennials.  Either add your leaves to a compost area or shred them.  A fine layer of shredded leaves can add valuable organic matter to your garden and can be used as mulch protection for your plants.

Hosta' Francee Williams'
2. Cut back perennials to a couple of inches above the ground. Perennials that benefit from winter pruning include salvia, coreopsis, sedum, gaillardia, nepeta and daylily.  Hosta should be completely cleared of dead foliage to prevent fungal disease.  When the hosta has completely died back simply clean the yellowed leaves from around the plant and apply a thin layer of mulch over the crown. Liriope is somewhat sensitive to cold and can be pruned half way but not all the way down.  Some perennials are very cold sensitive such as Heuchera (coral bells), astilbe, liatris, lavender, perovskia (russian sage) and lupine and should be left to be pruned in early spring.

Canna Lily

3. Pull up any annuals or vegetables destroyed by frost and put into a compost pile or dispose of them.

4. Dig up tender bulbs such as gladiolus, cannas and dahlias that do not survive the winter and store them in a cool dry place such as a crawl space or garage in either a paper bag or in a container of vermiculite.

5. Plant spring blooming bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinth and crocus from September through early November.  
Astilbe 'Sprite'

6. Check and apply mulch to your gardens around perennials and shrubs in areas where the  temperatures fall below freezing for long periods of time. The mulch serves as insulation for the plants and provides some important protection during winter freezes and thaws and also helps to prevent moisture loss.

7. Apply an anti-desiccant spray to any broadleaf evergreens such as holly, rhododendron, cherry laurel, skip laurel, mountain laurel, Japanese skimmia, leucothoe, aucuba and boxwood. These plants can be subject to severe winter burn due to water loss from the leaves by transpiration.  Apply an anti-desiccant when the daytime temperatures start falling below 50 degrees (late fall/early winter). Apply when the temperatures are above freezing and there is no threat of rain or frost within 24 hours. Application can be repeated in cases of mid-winter thaw.  (This tip applies to areas going into their winter season-temperatures dropping below freezing: 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Cherry Laurel 'Otto Luyken'
8. Water evergreens, trees and shrubs until the ground freezes. It is important that prior to winter that there is significant moisture around your plants before the ground freezes in order to ensure their health. A well watered tree will over winter far better than a thirsty one and will not be as susceptible to winter frost damage.

9. Weed your garden beds now. Weeds seem to show up and thrive in the fall garden so pull them up before they get out of control.  This prevents further weeds from developing and gives your garden a good start for spring!

10.In very windy areas cover your evergreens with burlap or form a wind barrier to prevent chilling winds from drying out and causing winter burn on your plants.

11.Do not fertilize or prune plants as winter approaches. Pruning or fertilization can spark new growth. If a hard frost hits it could kill the new growth and harm your plant. Do trim out dead or damaged branches.

12.Use dormant oil on deciduous trees to prevent spring insect damage. Spraying of dormant oil should be done on a clear day when the temperatures are expected to remain above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not spray if freezing temperatures are in the forecast.

Following these simple tips will help to ensure the health, beauty and lifetime of your landscape and will give your garden a good start for next year.  Gardening doesn't have to stop just because the  temperatures are dropping.  There is much to do to get your garden ready for the winter months so grab your tools!  Watch for more to come on winter gardening and designing your landscape for winter.

Lee@ A Guide To Northeastern Gardening Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved