3 Steps to Prepare Your Garden and Landscape For Winter

The summer is over, clearly autumn has arrived, and winter can’t be far behind. It is time to prepare the garden and surrounding landscape for the harsh months ahead. Here are 3 simple tips to help you get started.
 
Clean Up: Before the first killing frost do one last weeding in the garden. This will prevent seed heads from dispersing and give you a head start in the spring. Remove any diseased plants or foliage to prevent diseases from spreading or even lying dormant in the ground until next spring. Do not compost diseased materials. Cut back foliage that is done blossoming and unattractive at 2 to 3 inches off the ground. Plants such as lavender, Russian sage and astilbe bring interest to the winter garden if left untrimmed. Phlox, peonies, and monarda (bee balm) should always be cut back because they are highly susceptible to disease. Plants that still look good, annuals, hostas, sedum and others can be cut back after the first killing frost. Unfortunately, raking is a must for a healthy, attractive lawn and garden. 
 
Cover Up: You might be surprised to discover that most perennials do not need to be covered up or protected. However if you are trying to grow plants or shrubs that are not hardy for your agricultural zone, or it’s a first year perennial, or it is expensive or special you might want to take extra precautions. The preferred method for protecting garden perennials is to mulch, but mulching does not mean covering up your plants. The mulch material should be placed around the base of the plant, not covering the center or crown and should not be done until after several hard frosts. The idea is to prevent the ground around the plant from unthawing and refreezing causing the plant to heave or start spring growth prematurely. Materials for mulch can include shredded leaves (run your mower over the leaves several times), processed manure, or shredded bark. It is advantageous to use something that will break down over the winter and add nutrients or amend the soil.

Tender shrubs and roses often require some protection from the harsh winter winds, temperatures and animal damage. Plastic or wire hardware cloth can be used around the shrubs to protect the bark from rodent damage. To protect from winds and temperatures shredded leaves can be put in as well. Hybrid tea roses should be protected before the temperatures drop below 25 degrees F. There are products such as The Garden Dome that offer a simple frame and secured cover for shrub and plant protection. Continue to water evergreens and newly planted shrubs as long as possible.

Collect: Walk around your garden and yard and collect the decorative elements that would take a beating; statuettes, wind chimes, gazing balls, etc. Don’t forget about  ceramic bird baths that are susceptible to freezing and cracking. Take clippings of any annuals that you want to bring indoors. Consider cleaning out your containers and storing before the weather is miserably cold. Be sure to drain and bring in hoses and if you do not have freeze proof faucets those should be drained and shut off as well.
 
A garden prepared for winter is a protected investment. A little time and energy spent now will bring a more pleasant result in the spring.