The crisp air and leaves of autumn are nature’s gentle reminder of the coming winter. To winterize your landscape it’s important to assess which plants have needs you can accommodate. While evergreens, lawns and older trees winter well, newer trees, plants and even the compost need extra protection. Learn how to give your yard a restful Winter so it can wake up refreshed in Spring.
A Blanket of Leaves?
With the lawn, to seed or not to seed is not a question. Fall is the perfect time to seed. Cooler grasses grow with the cool fall weather. However, the debate on whether to rake leaves or not is not so simple. Depending on the type and size of leaves some suggest leaving them to provide a mulchy feast of nature’s fertilizer. Leaves also provide habitat for all kinds of small creatures who need winter shelter. But many homeowners err on the side of mowing or raking them, as to not suffocate or cause disease. Another great option is to mow and catch the mulch to use on flower beds or compost, or using raked leaves to start a compost pile (which you can during the winter). After the last mow, gauge what type of fertilizer your green carpet may need with a soil test. Once you figure out the grass’ needs, fertilizing the soil with your own compost may be the easiest way to solve the next round of winter preparation.
There are many ways to utilize your compost in winterizing. Remember, though, the compost itself may require some extra protection. If you pile your compost, use leaves as a top layer of protection and cover with a tarp to retain heat, reduce excessive moisture and deter pests. If you compost in a bin, moving to the sunniest location and tarping it will help it survive during the cold. Additionally, insulation like wood pallets or hay bales will provide some protection. While protecting the compost is a priority, there are other ways to utilize compost in winterizing your landscape.
Tuck in the Trees and Shrubs
While deciduous trees, bushes, and evergreens are usually hearty survivors, they may need some extra protection depending on their age and your local weather. Younger trees and bushes without long established roots can be aided by watering until the first freeze, then providing a cover of mulch. If dry cold winds are a frequent visitor, use a burlap wrap or shrub cover provides to protect fragile branches. While rose bushes are hearty survivors, hybrid roses need the extra protection of a cover. Even a mighty evergreen shrub is no match for the nimble teeth of a deer so a shrub wrap can help. Potted evergreens may need some wind protection as their roots are more exposed than they would be in the ground. Moving your potted evergreens to the eaves near the front door or against the side of the house by a window can provide a nice green focal point for dreary winter days and protect their roots.
Put the Flowers to Bed
Even with protection, flower and garden beds can be a tricky and delicate winter management challenge. While Fall is the perfect time to plant springtime bulbs, the flower bed itself needs some extra protection. Leftover mulch can provide cover but some plants may need to be removed to a more temperate location. Removing dead matter is important even if you’re using mulch for protection. Potted plants are at the most risk because the roots are closer to the cold. If possible, put the whole pot into the soil for the winter months. If not, arrange the pots close together next to the house and provide insulation such as hay bales around the perimeter. Use mulch in the top of the pot around the plant. If there are plants that will not survive the temperatures that winter may bring, consider moving them to an indoor location without shocking them. When it comes to garden beds Fall is the perfect time to till, making springtime work easier than covering with mulch to provide some wind erosion protection.
Once finished with winter prep, the final step is your landscape’s tools. Drain and store garden hoses so they don’t freeze, tune mowers, blowers, and other electric tools and repair any tools so everything is ready for Spring gardening. Now you and your plants are ready for a long winter’s nap.