Gardening

How to winterize your yard

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A woman begins to winterize her garden.
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Early winter is a great time to winterize your yard.

There are many things you can do to help your garden survive winter and make your property more beautiful in the spring.

General Tips on How to Winterize Your Yard

One of the most rewarding winter chores is planting spring-flowering bulbs. Daffodils and narcissus should go in first because they need some time to root in the fall; and squirrels leave them alone because they're poisonous. All the rest of your bulbs can be planted later, right up until ground freeze-up, when squirrels aren't as busy digging in the garden. And, it's not too late to order new bulbs online for immediate delivery or for those that should be planted in early spring. Following is some more information on how to winterize your yard.

Lawns

Apply Fall Weed&Feed to strengthen grass roots and blades and build up disease resistance. Rake all leaves off the lawn before snowfall and make the last cut of the season shorter.

Annuals and Perennials

Remove all annuals from garden beds and containers; they're unsightly when killed by frost. Decaying plants in the garden also provide a perfect nesting site for insects. Perennials need to be cut back close to ground level in late fall (except for the Ornamental Grasses, Lavender, and Russian Sage, which are all pruned back in early spring).

Evergreens

Upright Junipers and Cedars can be damaged from the weight of snow and ice bending branches down. These bent branches don't snap back into place in April and need to be pruned off. To keep branches upright, purchase clear plastic mesh or green twine that is spiraled down the full length of the evergreen.

Roses

In mid to late November, trim roses back to about 1 m (36"). Surround the base of your Floribunda, Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora, or English Rose with an adjustable rose collar purchased at your local garden centre. Sink it about 2.5 cm (1") into the ground where it will firmly freeze into place. Pack a mixture that's half garden soil and half manure into the collar. Or you can place a Styrofoam rose hut right over the rose which has been cut down much shorter. The hut can also be dug 2.5 cm (1") into the soil, or a heavy rock can be placed on top. Don't prune back climbing roses; instead, pack garden soil and manure solidly against the base (called "hilling"). Shrub roses generally don't need extra protection, but a bit of hilling wouldn't hurt.




Trees

Assorted rodents as well as rabbits and deer are particularly partial to eating the bark of shrubs and trees like crab apples and fruit trees during winter. To protect tree trunks, spiral a plastic tree guard around them or spray the bark with bitter tasting Ropel (available at garden and nursery outlets).

It would be wise to empty clay or ceramic pots and store them in your garage or basement - there's a good chance they'll crack if left outside due to the cycles of freezing and thawing. If you have a concrete or ceramic birdbath, be sure to turn the bowl upside down so water can't collect in it. This isn't necessary if you intend to use a birdbath heater that provides birds with a constant source of fresh water all winter long. Turn the bowl of your fountain upside down or cover it with a special fountain cover.

After weeding and planting, use leaves and compost to mulch the garden. The natural process of leaf fall enriches soil in forests. Healthy gardens can replicate this by mulching for winter. A garden with no mulch looks unnaturally scraped, and misses the benefits of being covered for winter. The mulch should be 3 to 4 inches deep, and should wrap all bare ground. You'll have fewer winter weeds sprouting, the soil won't be eroded or compacted by rains, and spring garden soil will be more friable under the mulch.

Other Tips on How to Winterize Your Yard

The one really important chore that must be done doesn't necessarily involve your yard, per se, but it is critical to its long time maintenance taking care of your garden tools! Be sure to clean, oil, sharpen, and repair all your garden tools before storing. Rub linseed oil onto wooden handles to prevent cracks. Remove all dirt and debris from shovels, spades and rakes. Make sure sprayers are emptied and washed out with hot soapy water. Empty the gas tank on your lawnmower or gas trimmer or add a gas preservative.

Water Gardens

Don't let falling leaves accumulate in your pond or pool. Rotting leaves at the bottom are a major cause of algae. Place a mesh tarp over top to catch them. Hardy aquatic plants can be placed at the bottom of the pond during the winter. However, tropical water lilies should be removed completely, trimmed back and stored in a cool basement - and should be kept covered with wet burlap. Don't let them dry out.

With preformed pools, don't empty the water because the weight of it will keep the pool firmly in the ground. Otherwise, it can pop out. You can drain it in the spring and refill it. Be sure to remove equipment like pumps, jets, lights, and the transformer and store in a dry place after having wiped them clean. If you intend to keep fish in your water garden, the ice has to be kept open somewhere so killing methane gas can escape.

Watering

November is often full of grey, rainy days. While it may seem depressing, it's actually beneficial. All your beds and the lawn will freeze up with plenty of moisture in case there is little snowfall, a mid-winter thaw, or no early spring precipitation. If you don't get a lot of rain during this month, you need to water everything deeply before shutting the water off for winter. Be sure to turn off all your outdoor water lines to prevent pipes from cracking during the colder months.

Now that you know how to winterize your yard, time to curl up with a good, hot cup of coffee or tea and peruse all those plant and bulb catalogs that you've put aside. It won't be too long before you have to go to work again!


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