Prepping the Garden for Winter – Have You Thought of Everything?

It’s high time to bring container plants in to their cold-weather quarters, a spot where they’re protected from frost without being too warm.

Leaves Away!

Leaves can serve a purpose covering beds. Although they should be removed from the lawn, they can be used as a protective layer over groundcovers, perennials, and at the base of small trees. This layer will decay into valuable humus by the time spring rolls around.

Protect Water Lines

If you have water lines in your garden, taps, or perhaps even a pump and filter device, you’ll have to empty and/or disassemble them before the first frost. The best method is to close all exterior water lines and ensure that the valves are all open. This is to safeguard the lines from bursting, should any remaining water freeze within them. There are special pumps that withstand frost; however, most garden pumps should be disassembled as a precaution, then cleaned and stored in a bucket of water until spring. It’s also important to scoop out leaves and any other contaminants from the garden pond so that they don’t decay at the bottom and affect the water quality.

To Prune or Not to Prune?

Most perennials have already died back by late fall, meaning the above-ground parts have withered. Next spring they’ll emerge again. It’s best to cut back the dry stems and leaves to a hands-width or so above the soil. There are some, however, whose dry stems make a particularly lovely winter element, particularly coneflower, globe thistle, and above all ornamental grasses. Peppered with hoarfrost they’ll glimmer handsomely, and should only be cut back in spring.
Opinions differ about the right time to prune woody plants – some prefer to prune before winter while others swear by waiting until spring. The one uncontested point is that many winter- and spring-bloomers should not ever by pruned in the fall, since they’ve already set their buds before winter; these should only be pruned in the summer. This holds true for shrubs like witch hazel, forsythia, and ornamental redcurrant and cherry. 

Last Mow before Frost

In order not to damage grass, mow to a height of 2.5-3 inches. It’s a good idea to lime the lawn surface afterwards, a treatment that’ll strengthen grass and prevent moss.

Color in the Bed!

As long as the ground remains unfrozen bulbs can be planted out. Plant a bed with crocuses, daffodils, tulips, and the like to get an early start on the blooming season and ensure that the garden is colorful long before trees and shrubs sport new growth.


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