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Preparing Your Garden For Winter

With the progression of fall and temperatures dropping, it is wise to begin your garden preparations for the cold weather to come. Many people believe that winterizing your garden for the most part involves covering up the plants and cleaning up the space, and this is somewhat true. Your work will mainly revolve around that, but there are additional garden care tasks that require your attention. It is advisable that you do not let your garden fend for itself in the winter months, but rather prepare it for the season.

You must not be fooled by the fact that everything seems calm in your garden as the fall season sets in. There is much that you don't see: shrubs, trees and bulbs are growing their roots, the mulch you have spread over the summer months is decomposing even more and microbes in the soil are processing the organic material into quality plant food.

In the middle of all this hidden activity, you must be active as well.  Preparing and protecting your plants from freezing temperatures will ensure a healthy garden next year, and fall garden preparation can lead to less garden clearance work when the next growing season comes around.

It is wise that you don't postpone your duties and start on these tasks today... before it's too late!

Know your climate

Man in fieldBefore you begin with any gardening tasks in the fall/winter seasons, it is important to know the specifics of the climate zone you live in. If you have lived there long enough, you are probably aware what to expect. Other than that, you can find plenty of information through online resources, such as the site of the United States Department of Agriculture, where plant hardiness zone maps are available. Hardy plants winter well... plants that are more vulnerable to the cold should be covered with burlap wraps, plywood frames or other protective measures so they will be there, happy and healthy, in the spring.

Apply new layer of mulch

You should not only use mulch in the summer to help the soil retain moisture, but also in the winter. The main goal of mulching in the cold season is not to retain to keep the soil warm, but rather to enable even temperature all around the area. Remember to spread a thick layer of mulch. You can also use your plentiful fallen leaves as mulch material, though you will rake them off in the spring if they add too much acidity to the soil.

Preparing bulbs for winter

The main concern you should have is that a freeze may cause your bulbs to heave to the surface of the soil, leaving them vulnerable to both freeze damage and the hunger of your local animal friends. This may happen when the soil shifts and cracks during the cold months. Expert gardeners recommend evergreen boughs over the bulb beds as means to prevent this, though mulch and leaves can also be helpful.

Preparing perennials for winter

There is some work involved in getting your perennial plants ready for winter. You should cut the dry stems of the plants so that your garden becomes neat. Aesthetics are not the only reason to do so, but also because it removes lingering disease spores and pest eggs. They don't need to be wasted... you can compost the plant debris into an organic soil conditioner! Dead foliage should be cut off from evergreen plants and discarded in the trash along with old mulch.

Preparing trees for winter

Young trees are vulnerable to critters and pests, as well as the cold winter wind. That is why you must make sure you do not neglect them in your winter garden care. What you need to do is wrap the trunks and stems with wire or look for a specially designed tree-guard product. Broad-leaved evergreen types are particularly vulnerable to winter wind, which can easily dry them. A burlap screen or shade cloth shelter will provide enough protection for them.

Preparing shrubs for winter

Old broom and pile of leavesIf the weather forecast warns of prolonged freezes, it is a good idea to wrap your shrubs in burlap or fabric material. Expert gardeners suggest that you avoid plastic covers, even though they are a popular option. A simple tee-pee over your shrubs will work wonders. The main issue with plastic is that it is not a breathable material, which can in fact cook the plant. You have to remember to remove the covers when the temperatures rise, to prevent overheating.

Create leaf mold

Now is the time to put all of those fallen leaves to good use. Don't think of leaves as a nuisance, even when it is bothersome to rake them all, but rather consider the benefits they present. With some effort you can turn the leaves into a great leaf mold soil conditioner. This material is partially decomposed and solely derived from leaves. Just pile up a good number of them and wait enough time for them to decompose. Shred the leaves to speed up the process and ensure air is circulating through the pile. Once the leaf mold is ready, you can mix it into poor soil to better its qualities, or use it the same way you would use organic mulch.

Take care of the snow on branches

Too much snow can add weight to evergreen branches, potentially leading to breakage. To ensure this doesn't happen, you must regularly knock the snow from the branches. When you do that, remember to start from the bottom branches first, as that will prevent extra weight on your branches from above. If you notice ice on the branches, it is best if you don't try to free them from it. Let it gradually melt, or else you risk damage.

Invest enough time in preparing your garden for the winter and you will reap the benefits next growing season. Devote your attention to your garden in the cold months, as that is the time it needs it most. You can read more at: