Winter is on its way; think about your garden

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By Susan Brown
Horticulture Extension Agent

The days are starting to get shorter and the temperatures are getting cooler. This means one thing: winter is on its way. Trees are starting to shed their leaves and perennials are starting to look a little ragged, so it is time to think about winterizing your garden. 

Now is the best time of the year to plant your landscape trees and shrubs and divide your perennials. Planting now will allow them to acclimate to their new homes before they start pushing new growth in spring. Watering the newly planted additions is not as crucial this time of year. We tend to get more rain in the fall and winter. With the cooler temperatures, the plant doesn’t use as much water; thus, making it easier to get a plant established. Watering is necessary when we have dry spells and can also reduce winter damage.

Keep late falling leaves off your lawn to prevent diseases and suffocation. Remove all dead plants from the garden or landscape. When removing dead plants, be sure to remove all of the plant, including the roots. On trees, shrubs, and perennials, remove dead or diseased foliage from the garden. 

Be sure, when cutting back dead or diseased foliage and removing dead plants, you do not leave the plant debris in the garden. Diseases and insects can overwinter and can cause problems on other plants the following spring. Instead, throw out or burn the diseased debris and get it away from the property.

Mulch plays another important factor in the winter. It reduces weeds, insulates the root system and protects roots from injury. A layer of mulch 2 to 4-inches thick is optimal.

It is time to bring in those beloved houseplants that do so well on the porch in the summer. Check the leaves for insects before bringing them indoors. Wipe down the pots with soap and water to clean up any dirt or debris.

Resist the urge to fertilize your garden. Fertilizing plants this late into the season would cause them to want to put on new growth, which would not have time to harden off before temperatures dip.

Put off that heavy pruning until late February early March. Heavy pruning now would cause too much tender growth that will be prone to cold injury late this winter. Tip pruning evergreens for decorations indoors for the holidays is acceptable. 

Buy your spring-flowering bulbs now but wait until December to plant. Spring and early summer flowering bulbs must be planted in the fall in order to develop a root system and satisfy the cold requirement of the bulbs. Wait until soil temperatures are below 60 degrees before planting. 

Clean and store all lawn and garden equipment no longer needed until spring. Hoses and sprinklers should be drained, lubricated, rolled, or stored.

Lastly, don’t forget about our feathered friends. Provide them with seed, suet and water throughout the winter months.