Here at Wasell Gardens, fall and winter cleanup and winterizing of plants is an important job. Its also a large one that involves various tasks throughout the season. This time of year, our fall cleanup and winterizing checklist is just about complete, with a few tasks left to do! If you're currently working on cleaning up your garden, putting up outdoor Christmas decor and winterizing plants so that they're prepared for the long winter ahead, here's a short list of tasks and things to keep in mind when tidying up.
1. Removing dead plant material - this involves cleaning up vegetable patches and annual flowers that are past their prime. Decide what to pull up and toss in the compost pile as well as what to leave... Remember that seed bearing plants often provide food for birds throughout the winter. If they're too unsightly to be left in their current location, consider making an inconspicuous pile in a quiet corner of your yard or garden so that birds can pick through the leftovers when the weather turns cold and icy.
Some of our Marigolds - 'Sparky Mixed' the day before our first frost!
2. Compost - Speaking of compost, now is a good time to take stock of what's happening in your compost pile and/or bin. The influx of decomposing green material in your compost pile will create a nitrogen rich mix and will help other compostable break down more efficiently. Taking stock of the compost bin will also help you determine what material you have for the winterizing of plants. Some plants enjoy a layer of composted manure and other material to mulch and winterize them - keeping their roots toasty warm!
3. Mulching - At this time of year, we spread a layer of mulch at the base of most of our perennial plants and trees. Plants like raspberries and strawberries, roses, snowball bushes, rhodies and even our rhubarb all enjoy being mulched for the winter - I think most plants do appreciate a little tlc before winter sets in. As far as what to use for mulching material - we usually use straw and composted goat bedding from my sister's dairy goats. If you don't have farm animals, you may use the leaves that you've raked up from your disease-free trees - a layer of fresh bark or fresh wood chips or straw will also do.
The leaves of the Poplars are turning yellow!
4. Soil Amendment - I touched on this a little bit in the compost section of this article, but one of the most important things you can do to invest in the health of your garden for the coming spring is to amend the soil with already composted manure or manure to compost in the fall. For any of your garden patches that will lay bare for the winter, amending the soil with livestock manure will create a nutrient rich soil for next spring. Just be sure not to use raw manure on already existing plants as it can burn them. Use composted manure and other material for situations like these. Amending manure into bare soil, however, will do no harm - it will compost nicely over the winter.
5. Pruning - To prune or not to prune.... The short answer is 'Don't prune.' Many gardeners make the mistake of pruning plants back when the weather turns cold. In most cases, plants (especially shrubs and trees) are much better off being left alone at least until late winter and early spring if they are not spring bloomers. Spring blooming plants need to be pruned within two month's after their flowering season - which is generally during the summer time. I have yet to come across a plant that prefers fall and winter pruning, since pruning at this time of year (November through the winter) can harm most any plant. Since pruning also encourages growth in plants, pruning now may leave new growth susceptible to being killed off by frost - damaging next year's growth. The only exception to this rule I have found is when you're pruning already dead material. Branches with no life in them (i.e. they look dry, completely brown and dead) are fine to prune at any time of year in our experience. Just be sure to avoid pruning the parts of the plant that are still green.
6. Weeding - During this time of year, weed production has hopefully begun to slow down, leaving us with less weeding to do in the garden. If you do happen to have a surplus of weeds from this year's summer garden, its a good idea to finish weeding them out. Not only will your flowerbeds look beautiful throughout the fall and winter, but its an important step to keeping the weed count down in your garden next year. In other words, the less weeds that are in the garden throughout the winter means less weeds multiplying in the spring.
7. Care for Bulbs and Tubers - While fall is the perfect time of year for planting spring bulbs, its also the perfect time to dig up your tubers such as dahlias for storage over the winter. If you still have dahlia tubers in the ground and are wondering just how to go about digging and storing them, I wrote an informative article on dahlias that covers this topic. If you'd like to read more about dahlia digging and storage, click here. You can also read about the process of digging out our dahlias for storage on our October 20th, 2016 blog post. If you want to know more about planting spring bulbs, you can visit our October edition of In the Garden by clicking here.
Labeling our dahlia tubers for storage....
I hope that this
checklist has been helpful to you for putting the finishing touches on
your fall garden cleanup. Join me next time for another entry in the In the Garden journal. Happy
Gardening, Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!
By, Jessi Wasell
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