Putting Your Garden to Bed
Is that snoring you hear from your garden? As fall turns into winter, leaves fall and plants go dormant. As the fall and winter winds start to blow, it’s time to put your garden to bed for the winter. Keep your garden healthy during its winter quiet period.
Prepare Spring Plantings
Fall is the time to prepare for new spring growth. Before it gets too cold, plant your larger perennial plants such as trees and shrubs and allow them to develop root systems before they go dormant for the winter. This gives them a head start in the spring. Plant your wildflower seeds and other seeds that require the winter’s cold to activate. Get your bulbs into the ground, since they also need to have a cold period to begin to bloom in the spring.
Make the Beds
Once your garden is completely planted, make the beds. Remove dead vegetation. If it’s not diseased, it can become part of the mulch around the base of your plants. Rake up leaves and place them in a layer on your garden beds as well. Placing leaves on your beds not only helps them rot and build healthy soil for the spring, it protects your existing soil from the harsh rain and snow of winter. Any kind of decomposing mulch also gently raises the soil temperature of your garden beds.
Plan to Prune
Pruning is about making the garden tidy, but it can also protect smaller, herbaceous perennials from damage during the winter months. As you get ready for the winter, prepare your plants by pruning, but prune consciously. If you have perennials that have yellow or brown foliage without sturdy stems, consider cutting this back and using it as mulch or compost. Keep plants that contain seed heads, as the birds will love to eat these during the winter months. Whenever possible, keep hollow-stemmed plants to provide habitat for nesting insect such as solitary bees. If you have larger perennials and your winters are damp, consider pruning them in the spring instead so that they are not exposed to fungal diseases.
Watch Your Drainage
As winter approaches and the ground begins to freeze, you have one last opportunity to adjust your drainage. Check your gutters and drainpipes to make sure that they are not sagging, cracked, or leaking. If the fall winds have moved many leaves into the gutters, remove them or consider adding gutter covers to avoid this problem in the future. Look for areas in your garden where water pools and plant perennials to create a rain garden, or reroute that water and develop better drainage before it turns to ice.
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