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7 ways to winterize your garden
A few of my friends find it funny that I actually look forward to doing garden chores at this time of year. There is an element of truth to what they believe as I do enjoy pruning, weeding and mulching. But when it comes to going outside in the cold to get your garden and yard ready for winter, my main motivator is that I know I’ll be reaping the benefits with a more beautiful lawn and garden come next spring.
Doing a few simple tasks now can help get your garden in shape for winter and give you a head start to next year’s garden when spring finally rolls around. And the best part is that it takes minimal effort to yield maximum results. Here are seven ways you can winterize your landscape for a more beautiful spring.
1. Protect your plants. No matter where you live, winter can take its toll on tender plants and those with borderline hardiness. Protect roses and other woody plants by mounding soil or organic mulch around the bases, or surround the plants with a cylindrical wire cage filled with a foot-thick layer of straw or dry leaves. Protect upright evergreens from snow or ice damage by loosely tying branches together.
2. Timely pruning. Prune out any dead, diseased, or broken branches from shrubs and trees. Prune roses heavily in areas with winter snow or wind. Otherwise, reserve any heavy pruning until late winter or early spring when plants are dormant; for winter-flowering shrubs like witch hazel, hold off on pruning until flowering has ceased.
3. Liven up your lawn. If you want a thicker and greener lawn come spring, remember this; grass shoots stop growing in fall, but roots keep growing. Provide roots the nutrients they need by applying a slow-released fertilizer to your lawn now, or apply a 1/4-inch thick layer of compost. And a mulching mower that cuts both lawn and leaves into a fine organic matter increases earthworm activity (which helps prevent thatch buildup) and benefits the soil.
4. Care for your container plants. Move potted tender annuals and herbs indoors for the winter. Store empty clay containers in a protected location such as the basement or garage. This will keep containers from cracking and flaking during winter freeze and thaw cycles.
5. Protect and maintain essential tools and equipment. Clean, oil and sharpen garden tools before storing. Prepare gas lawnmowers and trimmers for winter by running the tank empty, or add a gas stabilizer. Check your outdoor garden products for freeze tolerance and store in a frost-free location if needed.
Hard freezes can cause damage to hoses and other irrigation equipment. Thoroughly drain water in hoses and store in a freeze-free location. I live in an area where heavy winter freezes do occur from time to time. That’s why my favorite hose is the Craftsman 5/8 in. x 50 ft. All Rubber Garden Hose . It remains flexible to 25 deg. below zero so I can leave it in place year-round.
6. Water wisely. Newly planted bulbs, shrubs and trees still need to be watered if your winter weather is dry or snow-free. Evergreens such as hollies, boxwoods and conifers also need to be watered until the ground freezes. Doing so will protect them against damage caused by winter wind and sun.
7. Make way for winter mulch. Organic mulches such as shredded leaves, straw, bark chips or wood shavings provide a winter blanket of insulation that also feeds beneficial microorganisms. These soil microbes improve the soil structure and fertilize the soil by converting nutrients from mulch materials into a plant-friendly form. In cold winter areas, wait until after the ground freezes before applying winter mulch to prevent rodents from setting up house.
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