Winterizing the Yard

toadflax-frostHere in the north country, we face the inevitable in November and December every single year‐ cooling temperatures and possible snow fall.  As the temperature drops, you may be tempted to spend more time indoors curled up next to a cozy fire.  But, if you have a lawn, garden or landscape bed, there are a few things that you should do first to help your plants make it through the winter, and allow them to be in the best possible shape come spring.
  • Rake up and dispose of thick layers of leaves on your lawn
  • A few leaves on your lawn won’t hurt, and may even help the grass if they are broken into small pieces and decompose over the winter.  A thick carpet of leaves, however, can become compacted over time, especially when it gets damp from rain or snow.  This can suffocate the grass below and cause the health of your lawn to deteriorate.  It is preferred, then, to rake or blow large amounts of leaves from the lawn or use a mulching mower to break the leaves into smaller pieces, allowing them to decompose faster. If you need help, Toadflax Lawn Maintenance is only a phone call away.
  • Use the leaves you removed from your lawn as mulch
  • Although large amounts of leaves are best kept off the lawn during the winter, they can be of use in other areas of your yard.  Put raked leaves into the compost pile and let them decompose with other yard waste over the winter.  Or, if you don’t mind the look, spread them evenly throughout your flower bed, providing a winter blanket for the garden and adding valuable organic material back into the soil as they decompose.
  • Watch for browning needles on conifers
  • As temperatures approach freezing and below, it is normal for some conifers to show browning of the needles, especially towards the interior of the plant.  This can be unsightly and it is okay to remove the dead areas with pruners.  Or, if you just leave them alone and let nature take its course, the dead areas will fall to the ground on their own and you can dispose of them then.
  • Remove dead annuals from flower beds & trim perennials
  • As the weather turns colder, most annuals, including mums planted during the fall, begin to die.  Removing the unsightly plants from your garden not only improves the look of the garden but it will also make your spring cleanup job easier.  You may notice that perennials in the same area look dead too.  This is because their top growth dies back, but it does not mean that the entire plant is dead.  Go ahead and remove the dead growth and place mulch around the root ball to help protect it from the extreme winter temperatures.  Be careful not to cover the center of the plant, however, as this could cause it to rot and die.
  • Take care of potted plants
  • Many people enjoy the looks of potted perennials or tropical plants throughout the growing season.  These need to be prepared for winter, however, or they will not survive the colder temperatures.  If the plants are perennials, they can be left in their pots outside but place them in a sunny area and cover the pots with mulch to provide similar insulation to what they would have if they were planted in the ground.  This helps protect their roots from the extreme temperatures.  Tropical plants, on the other hand, will not survive in this climate if they are left outdoors during the winter.  They can remain in their existing pots but should be brought indoors and placed in an area where they have plenty of light.  They will still need to be watered throughout the winter, but not as frequently, and they won’t need to be fertilized again until spring.
  • Consider planting more perennials
  • Many people don’t realize that as long as the ground isn’t frozen, it is usually safe to plant perennials, trees and shrubs in the fall.  Planting them early in the fall versus later, however, will give them even more time to become acclimated to their new surroundings and establish roots before the winter weather hits.
  • Keep turning the compost pile
  • If you’ve made your own compost pile from yard waste and/ or household food scraps, it’s just as important to maintain it throughout the winter as it is to do so in the spring and summer.  One difference, however, is that the internal temperature of the pile will be cooler during the winter months and result in slower decomposition of the organic material in the pile.  You can help raise the internal temperature by continuing to turn the pile and also covering it with a thick layer of fall leaves.  The leaves will not only add more nutrients to the organic matter as they begin to decompose but they will also insulate the pile.
  • Plant a cover crop
  • If you are like many gardeners, you plant your vegetable garden in the same place each year and just till up the ground each spring before planting seeds or small plants.   Even if you rotate crop locations, however, your garden soil can become depleted of essential nutrients over time.   To combat this, you can either add nutrient‐rich soils and fertilizers each year when you prepare your garden, or you can plant a cover crop in the fall. Cover crops such as red clover can add vital nutrients such as nitrogen, and replenish what has been removed from the soil over time by plants growing in the area.
  • Take care of your gardening tools and equipment
  • Be sure to remove any water from sprinklers, hoses, and irrigation systems.  Otherwise, water left in them will freeze and may cause them to crack or burst.
  • Take time to evaluate the success (or failure) of your gardening efforts
  • Once your outdoor spaces have been prepared for winter, it’s a great time to start thinking about what you want to do next year.  Start by evaluating what worked best this year and what could be improved to provide even better results next season.  Winter is the perfect time to look through gardening books or talk to our gardening professionals here at Toadflax Nursery to get new ideas and inspiration, either for your existing gardens or new ones.
Winterizing the Yard was last modified: November 4th, 2016 by toadflax