The weather is slowing transitioning into those crisp mornings where you can see the subtle puffs of your breath and when the delicate frost ever-so-slightly graces the tips of the grass in our yards. With the cold weather already starting, it will be winter before you know it! Now is the perfect time to discuss end-of-season gardening. Mentioned in other blog posts, winter composting and cover crops are very essential to preparing your garden for the spring, but here we will discuss how to protect and prepare the plants you currently have such as perennials, bulbs, trees and roses, for the potentially harsh winter to come.
Though snow can protect plants, it can also endanger them. It can serve as insulation for the soil but be sure to knock the snow off of evergreen branches starting from the bottom up, as it can weigh them down and cause breakage. If ice covers the plants, just let it melt instead of trying to free them.
Perennials and Bulbs
To prepare perennials for the winter cut back the dry stems to soil level after frost and remove pest eggs and disease spores. Leave stems with seed heads and compost dead plant debris or diseased foliage and discard it in the trash. Also throw away old mulch as well as it can carry diseases too. In order to prevent rodents from nesting, wait until the ground has frozen before adding the winter mulch. Mulch perennials with pine needles or chopped up leaves to help protect plant roots and the soil. Use those for bulb beds as well or with evergreen boughs in order to protect cracking or shifting in soil and to prevent shallow bulbs from being crushed.
Trees and Roses
In order to protect young trees from pests, wrap the stems or trunks of the trees with wire or tree-guard products. Screen in the evergreens especially ones that are broad-leaved, with burlap or shade cloth shelters. That will help from the dry winter wind and the sun. Hybrid tea roses are the most vulnerable during the winter. Make sure you stop fertilizing in the later summer and have the last feeding be two months before the first frost. Do not cut blossoms and refrain from major pruning. Remove old mulch and spread fresh mulch (consisting of wood chips, shredded bark or leaves) around the base just before the first frost of the season. And be sure to water the rose well. Once the ground has officially frozen, add more mulch and build it up 6 to 12 inches up the canes and add keep adding after every freeze. The mulch should eventually cover the bush and this will help protect the fragility of the roses.
Hopefully these guidelines for end of season gardening will help in protecting your plants, flowers and trees from this upcoming winter. Be sure to think of new ideas for the spring! It is never too early to start!