Winter Garden Tips from Lavin Landscape & Ground Maintenance
Winter may not seem like the time to think about your garden. But take advantage of this break from the growing season to catch up on tasks that were put off during the rest of the year. Whether it’s protecting plants from severe cold, decorating the yard for the holidays, or planning for next year, there’s plenty to keep you busy while you dream of spring.
Winterize the garden
To protect plants from cold winter temperatures, water the garden thoroughly before the first hard frost. Once the ground has begun to freeze, mulch around the base of more tender plants with several inches of shredded leaves, ground bark or evergreen boughs. Newly planted trees or shrubs can be wrapped with a layer of burlap stuffed with insulating material such as straw or dried leaves.
Four season interest
Evaluate your garden for winter color. There’s nothing like winter-blooming plants to lift your spirits during the colder months. Shrubs such as winter hazel, witch hazel and honeysuckle offer color and fragrance at a time when you need it most. Early bulbs including snowdrops, species crocus and winter aconite will even pop up through a shallow cover of snow, giving you hope that spring is not far away.
Make sure your feathered friends have a steady source of food and water so they’ll stay year-round to help with pest control and balancing your garden’s ecosystem. Place nesting houses by February if you want to increase your bird population. Make sure each house has the right sized hole and dimension and is sited properly for the kind of bird you are trying to attract.
When decorating your home for the Christmas holidays, don’t forget about sprucing up your garden or yard. Use evergreen boughs and berries from the garden, or purchase them from your local nursery to create wreaths, garlands or arrangements to adorn entryways, winter-proof containers and window boxes. Add twinkling lights or ornaments for additional festive cheer.
Bring the garden indoors
Growing bulbs indoors such as paperwhite narcissus or amaryllis is a great way to keep your hands in the dirt and bring some living cheer into your home. Even if it’s too late to buy bulbs, you can still force branches of witch hazel, crabapple and forsythia by cutting the budded branches and bringing them inside to bloom.
Prune your plants
Start pruning trees and shrubs in late winter before they break dormancy. Don’t prune early bloomers until after they flower or you’ll lose this season’s blooms. Research pruning techniques for each variety before you start in order to obtain the best results for a healthy and attractive plant.
How to Prepare your garden for winter:
- Weed the garden: One final weeding done late in the season can help eliminate hundreds of overwintering seeds that will just be waiting sprout in spring.
- Remove debris: Clear fallen leaves and other debris from lawns and beds to decrease the potential for overwintering pests and diseases. Clean, dry leaves (not those from diseased trees or shrubs) can be shredded and used as mulch. Gather leaves and put them through a leaf shredder or simply run over them with a lawnmower with a bag attached. Shredding the leaves prevents them from packing together in layers, and allows for better air circulation and water to flow through.
SHRUBS, PERENNIALS AND TREES:
- Prune lightly: Cut back any perennials that aren’t desired over winter: plants that will blacken and turn mushy, like Veronicas or geraniums; ones that tend to harbor disease or insects over winter, like peonies, bearded iris and members of the mint family; and those that just don’t provide attractive winter interest. Cut back weak or spindly branches that might be damaged with snow load, and crossing branches that can be damaged from rubbing in high wind. Trim long canes on roses to keep them from snapping. This should be done once perennials have gone dormant, which is usually after a few killing frosts. Depending on the pruning requirements for each variety, any major pruning should be left for another time, usually spring or summer.
- Wrap delicate and newly planted shrubs: Evergreen shrubs are mainly damaged from dry winter winds that cause dehydration and are much more prone to winter damage than deciduous varieties. Shrubs with weak, brittle or floppy branches, or those with leaves that are easily damaged should be wrapped with breathable fabric. Inexpensive burlap can be used or there is a variety of products, like these shrub covers, designed specifically for protecting bushes and small trees.
- Protect hedges: To shield a row of shrubs, you can either wrap the entire row or create a windbreak on the prevailing wind side with stakes and a length of protective fabric or dense shade cloth.
- Water: Root systems of newly planted bushes and trees aren’t established enough to readily replace water lost from dehydrating winter winds. Continue to water them regularly until the ground freezes and use mulch to help retain moisture. Give all your plants one last deep watering. They’ll need this extra moisture to get through the winter when they have difficulty getting water from frozen ground.
- Lighten the load: Plants located under eave lines may get more than their fair share of snow due to roof-shed. Build teepee structures over these plants to deflect this extra load and keep branches from breaking.
- Select hardier plants: Plants and trees grown in containers are at a disadvantage to those grown in-ground. The above-ground portion of the plant may have reached its full hardiness, but the roots are more vulnerable to freezing without the full benefit of in-ground insulation. Even if a plant is hardy for your zone, choosing one that is hardy one to two zones lower can help it survive when grown in a container. Larger containers also offer better insulation with a greater volume of soil.
- Bring them in: Tender perennials and tropical plants can be moved indoors where they will get bright light. Relocate half-hardy perennials to a basement or garage where they will go dormant. Plants that need a chilling period in order to bloom or set fruit should be left outside and protected.
- Bury your containers: If you have space, containers can be left intact and planted in the ground. This provides the same insulation as in-ground planting.
- Protect your plants: Huddle plants together, placing the most cold-sensitive ones in the center. Locate the grouping in a sheltered area against a building or structure. Provide protection from wind with a windbreak or screen.
- Protect your containers: Wrap terra cotta pots with layers of bubble wrap and burlap. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent further absorption of moisture. Turn empty pots over to keep water from collecting and freezing, and cover those that are too large to flip or relocate.
- Apply a fertilizer: Get your lawn ready for winter with an organic fertilizer that is high in potassium
- Cut the grass short: The last mow of the season should be 2 to 3 inches tall; this will keep it from sheltering fungal diseases when covered with snow.
- Add lime: Horticultural lime makes soil more alkaline, which is preferable for lawns. The freeze thaw cycle of winter helps break-down the pellets and work it into the soil.
OUTDOOR LIVING FEATURES:
- Protect furniture: Bring patio furniture indoors, or use fitted covers to protect it outdoors over the winter.
Need help with any of these winter garden jobs? Do not hesitate to contact Lavin Landscape & Ground Maintenance today