Thursday, October 23, 2008

Are Your Lawn and Garden Ready for the Chill? part 1

Is your garden ready for winter? Here are some tips to help you get prepared.

Garden chores
Move terra-cotta and ceramic containers to a protected location like a garden shed or garage. Clean clay pots to remove the excess salt or algae build-up and repair damaged ones.

Bring tender plants, such as tropicals and containerized plants, inside for overwintering. Replant in pots if necessary and place them in a garage, heated garden shed or indoor room. Take cuttings of annuals, such as coleus, and begin propagating new plants for next season.

Dig and store tender summer- and fall-flowering bulbs, such as dahlias. Plant spring-flowering bulbs like daffodils and tulips. Plant bulbs with their roots down. If the bulb has a sprout at the top, it can still be planted.

Avoid heavy pruning of trees and shrubs going into the winter months, but do prune away broken branches. Touch up mulch at the base of plants once temperatures are consistently cold.

In the perennial border, touch up mulch around plants for added winter protection. A layer of mulch about two to four inches deep is ideal. Unless you prefer otherwise, it is fine to leave foliage that has died back as it will help provide additional protection at the crown of plants. Leave ornamental grasses intact without cutting them back to discourage new growth during warm spells and encourage birds to visit.

Extend the harvest of cool season veggies like lettuce and spinach by constructing a cold frame around them.

Remove spent plants from the vegetable garden and add them to the compost pile. Discard diseased plants in the trash. Turn over the soil with a garden fork (or till) to expose underground pests to cold temperatures. Caution: don't work soil when it's wet! Planting a cover crop can help reduce soil erosion, capture nutrients, reduce weeds and enrich the soil for spring.

Depending on where you live, there are different methods to winterizing roses. A good rule of thumb is to remove the foliage from on and around the base of rose plants; this keeps foliar diseases from overwintering and coming back next growing season. Prune away branches that show signs of decay or insect infestation; also cut long stems that can whip around in the wind. Throw away diseased foliage and cut branches in the trash, instead of composting it. Spray roses and the soil immediately surrounding them with a fungicide to protect plants through winter and hopefully keep disease from overwintering. A generous layer of mulch, topsoil or compost heaped around the graft union can also help protect it against the cold. More on overwintering potted roses and readying roses for winter in prior post.

Winterize the compost bin by covering it with a tarp; this will help to keep the composting process going through the cold season. Occasionally soak the pile with water to keep it moist. Add an insulation of leaves or straw on the top and the sides of the pile.

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