Preparing the Garden for Winter

As the days grow shorter, our days with blooming flowers in our gardens are limited.  To help ease into next spring, there are several things you can do to your garden this fall.  From what will last until our first snow to your lawn, here are a few tips on how to prepare your garden for the winter.

Most of the annuals in your yard, like your impatiens, sweet potato vine and marigolds, are going to have to be discarded.  There are annuals that are able to withstand cooler temperatures such as geraniums, dianthus, salvia, petunias and dusty miller.  These plants can handle the cooler temperatures because they are actually perennials in warmer climates.  These flowers will often begin to look better than they did in the heat of the summer at this point in the season.

Another group of annuals is the type that prefer cooler temperatures to the hot summer.  Flowers 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.

This is the time of year that we get a lot of questions regarding what to do with your perennials.  Do you cut them back or let them die back naturally? Do you mulch the bases or cover with cloths? 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.

Roses are the same; leave them 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 unless it is a Knock Out or rugosa rose.  If it is one of these varieties, it does not need to be mulched.

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.

Also, throuhgout the late fall, if there has not bee 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.

One thing we recommend you fertilize in the fall is 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.

Christian Goers