As the leaves fall and the thermometer begins to drop, we not only need to prepare ourselves for the winter, but we need to prep our gardens as well. Here are a few quick tips for preparing your garden:
1. Annuals: Your summer annuals like your zinnias, sweet potato vine and marigolds, are going to have to be discarded. As soon as the nights begin to drop below 50 or 45 degrees, these plants will not survive the nights. Now is the time to plant cooler weather annuals like pansies, violas, alyssum, as well as ornamental peppers, kale, cabbage, and Swiss chard. These are the most common annuals that you will see during the fall because they will last you into the first freeze.
2. Perennials: Generally speaking, most perennials require very little care at this time. Once frost has hit, go ahead and clean up the garden a little bit, but it's more for aesthetics than the plants. Cut down the dead stems and foliage once they have turned brown and yellow from the cold. Though, some of the plants, like coneflowers, rudbeckia and goldenrod, have seed heads that can remain to feed the birds through the winter.
The perennials you need to prepare for the winter are any newly planted ones. Once the soil freezes in the late fall, go ahead and mulch their bases to protect the root system from the winter. Autumn is a great time to plant perennials that have been growing all summer in containers, just be sure to add the protective layer to them after the freeze.
Perennial or ornamental grasses should not be cut back in the fall. Leave the grasses standing as they will be great decorations during the fall and winter seasons. Once spring comes around, remove the browned foliage and seed heads.
3. Roses: Much like other perennials, leave roses alone this time of year. Remove all the leaves and foliage it has dropped from the area around the plant. Prune any spent flowers from the roses, unless it is a rugosa variety. Then mulch the bases once the ground freezes.
4. Shrubs & Vines: Most shrubs and vine, like clematis, are the same as the rest of the perennials. If they were newly planted, go ahead and mulch their base. Do not prune them at this time, but let them die back naturally.
5. Watering: Throughout the late fall, if there has not been sufficient rainfall, it is important to water your perennials and shrubs. It may seem pointless, but this will help them come back healthy and strong next spring. Do not fertilize, however, as they will be going dormant for the winter season, you don't want to stimulate them.
6. Lawncare: The fall is a key time to fertilize your lawn. Apply two or more applications of a fall fertilizer to your lawn, look for higher amounts of phosphorus and potash and lower amounts of nitrogen.
Putting in some work now to prepare your garden for the winter will result in a better start next spring.