Brace Yourself, Winter is Coming!

Preparing your garden for winter is a very important part of landscape maintenance. 

Removal of leaves:   If there are only a few leaves, they can be chopped up with the lawnmower and left on the lawn.  This will add beneficial organic matter to the soil.  When there is an overabundance of leaves they will have to be removed.  Leaves can be piled or put in an enclosed bin to be composted.  The addition of green plant material such as kitchen scraps and garden debris will create compost that is an enriching soil amendment for your plants.  Leaves can also be used to protect half hardy shrubs such as figs.  A wire or burlap wrap can be put around the plants and filled with leaves.  This provides insulation in the cold winter months.  Leaves, if chopped up finely can also be used as mulch for flower beds and tree rings.  Pine needles should be left around the trees; however excess pine needles can be used as mulch for acid loving plants such as rhododendrons and azaleas.

Cut back perennials:  Perennials that have turned brown should be cut back.  Some seed heads may be left to provide food for birds over the winter.  This is a good time to save any seeds you would like to replant for next year.  Seeds should be dried thoroughly before storing.  They can be labeled and put in plastic bags and stored in the freezer until planting time.  This provides stratification that  some seeds require in order to germinate properly.

Dig up summer bulbs:  Cannas, Dahlias, caladiums, elephant ears and gladiolus bulbs can be dug up after the first frost.  Bulbs should be cleaned and dried and stored in a cool dark place.  They can be stored in peat moss or wrapped in newspaper.  Do not store bulbs in plastic bags. 

Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs:  Tulip, daffodil, alliums, hyacinth and crocus bulbs should be planted now. 

Remove dead wood from trees:  Removing dead wood from trees in the fall is a great safety precaution.  This reduces the possibility of branches falling on houses or people during winter storms.

Mulch:  After all the beds are cleaned and leaves have been taken away a fresh layer of mulch can be added to beds.  Mulch not only gives a neat appearance to the winter landscape, but provides additional insulation to plant and tree roots.

Protect evergreens from winter burn:  Hollies, Laurels, and boxwoods are just a few of the evergreens at risk for winter burn.  Winter burn is caused by moisture loss through the leaves.  As they are “evergreen” they continue to carry on photosynthesis and transpire in the winter. When moisture is lost through the leaves and the plant cannot absorb water from the roots, the leaves will dry out and turn brown.  One way to combat this is to spray an anti-transpirant on susceptible trees and shrubs.  Anti-transpirant sprays coat the leaves to reduce moisture loss.  They must be sprayed as the temperature cools down but before freezing.  Plants may be sprayed again mid winter if necessary as long as temperature is above freezing.

Congratulations!  All the hard work is done.  There is nothing left to do but relax for the next couple of months!

November comes

And November goes,

With the last red berries

And the first white snows.


With night coming early,

And dawn coming late,

And ice in the bucket,

And frost by the gate.


The fires burn,

And the kettles sing,

And the earth sinks to rest

Until next spring.


Clyde Watson