|You’ve toiled all spring and summer weeding and pruning, watering and fertilizing so your garden would bloom. Now that the cooler weather is coming, your garden is going to sleep and you can relax -- almost. Before you go into gardening hibernation, there are a few things you can do to protect your garden and make things easier on yourself in spring.
Before the frost
- plant new trees and spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils. Depending on your climate, you can do this anywhere from September to December. A good rule of thumb is that if the soil can be worked, things can be planted.
- buy polyspun garden fabric to protect annuals and summer vegetables if the forecast calls for frost.
- take seeds or cuttings of plants you want to grow indoors or plant for next year.
- water trees, which can dry out from wind and sun, particularly if it has been a dry summer. Fertilize trees that have been transplanted within the last year.
- weed. This is not essential, but it will save you time in the spring. Plus you don’t want ugly weeds to seed and then bloom along with your tulips.
- rake. Remove leaves while the grass underneath is still green, so it can absorb as much light as possible before the snow. Raking beds will also keep living plants from suffocating. But don’t throw the leaves away; cut them up and put them aside for mulch or compost.
- dig up sensitive bulbs like gladioli and dahlias, if you live in a particularly cold region. Store them in vermiculite in a paper bag in a cool and dry spot.
- give your roses some TLC. Ask your garden center or consult a gardening guide about what’s necessary for your type.
- clean out annual and vegetable beds. Throw out any plants you suspect to be diseased or infested with bugs. The rest you can put in the composter.
- cut perennials back almost to the ground -- unless they add color to your garden in winter -- then apply a layer of mulch. If you don’t think you will have time to mulch, don’t cut back the old plants, as the stalks and leaves will give some protection to the roots.
- apply a two- to four-inch layer of mulch on top of perennial, shrub and bulb beds. It will protect the beds from weeds and the elements and trap moisture. You can use chopped-up leaves from your lawn or other loose materials like pine needles, wood chips, chunk bark or coarse gravel for the perennials and shrubs. Don’t put down un-shredded leaves or other matter that compact easily because it will suffocate the plants. Cover bulb beds with evergreen boughs. Trees need a thicker layer of mulch than flower and shrub beds, up to six inches thick.
- wrap trees, especially recently planted trees or sensitive varieties like honey locust or Japanese maple. Wrap in burlap from the base of the trunk to the second or third branch, allowing some overlap to allow water to escape, then secure at the crown. If your evergreens brown over the winter, it’s because the wind has sucked out their moisture. You have two options to protect your trees: a chemical antidesiccant spray or windshields. Antidesiccants are not universally accepted, but you may still find them effective. Windshields are easy to erect: simply place wooden stakes in the ground and wrap burlap around them.
- clean and store tools, ceramic pots and birdbaths. Putting them away before the harsh weather starts will prolong the life of these garden essentials.