toadflax-frostWinterizing the Yard

Here in the north country, we face the inevitable in November and December every single year ‐ cooling temperatures and possible snowfall.  As the temperature drops, you may be tempted to spend more time indoors curled up next to a cozy fire.  If you have a lawn, garden or landscape bed, however, there are a few things you should do first to help your plants make it through the winter and be ready for spring when it comes.

  • 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’re broken into small pieces and decompose over the winter.  A thick carpet of leaves, however, can become compacted over time and can suffocate the grass below. This will cause the health of your lawn to deteriorate.  Instead, rake or blow large amounts of leaves from the lawn. If you need help, Toadflax Lawn Maintenance is only a phone call away.

  • Use leaves 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, spread them evenly throughout your flower beds, providing a winter blanket for your gardens 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’s 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 plants & trim perennials

As the weather turns colder, most annuals 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.  Perennials in the same area may 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.  Don’t 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 won’t survive the colder temperatures.  Perennials 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.  Tropical plants, however, 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.

  • Plant more perennials

As long as the ground isn’t frozen, it’s usually safe to plant perennials, trees and shrubs in the fall.  Planting them early in the fall versus later, however, will give them 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.  The internal temperature of the pile will be cooler during the winter months, however, 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 add more nutrients to the organic matter as they decompose and 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 time.   Even with crop rotation, however, your garden soil can become depleted of essential nutrients over time.   To combat this, add nutrient‐rich soils and fertilizers each year when you prepare your garden, or plant a cover crop in the fall. Cover crops can add vital nutrients and replenish what has been removed from the soil.

  • Take care of gardening tools and equipment

Remove any water from sprinklers, hoses, and irrigation systems.  Otherwise, water left in them will freeze and may cause them to crack or burst.

  • Evaluate 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.

Fall Garden ChoresFall Gardening Chores Made Easy

We made it through the dog days of summer, and now the leaves are changing, and the temperature is dropping. Crisp days and cool nights are upon us, which means it is time to put your gardens to bed and finish up your fall gardening chores before the snow flies!

How to begin fall cleanup

The first thing to do is to take a quick look around your beds and start with a good clean-out. Leave ornamental and wildlife-friendly plants standing. Next, take out any unhealthy plants and destroy the debris to minimize next year’s issues with squash bugs, cabbage worms, and other pests and diseases. Now is also a good time to trim any dead or broken limbs. Doing it now, will save time later.  A hard freeze or heavy snow can break more branches and cause more damage during winter. Gather up and dispose of any dead leaves. Once crumbly after aging in a heap, they make great mulch, or can be turned into beds to add organic matter.

Fall lawn care tips

Take another look around and think about the lawn. It’s best to do heavy raking now as opposed to in the spring. If you notice spots of grass that are bare, throw down some seed and cover it with a half, or three-quarter-inch layer of compost. This will help to prevent weeds later and protect the seed. Now about those weeds, clean them up now! Getting rid of weeds now, means less seeds which translates into fewer weeds when the weather warms up again. This will make your spring weeding faster, and way more manageable.

Fall watering

If you are experiencing a dry fall, be sure to water trees now through the hard frost, so that they enter dormancy well-hydrated. Evergreens (needled ones and broadleaf types like rhododendron, too) are particularly vulnerable to desiccation and winter burn.

Look for ways to improve your gardens

Thoughtfully take apart the vegetable garden as crops fade, with an eye to improved future performance. Think about tilling less, about cover crops, and about generally boosting soil health. Make sure to protect or store weather-vulnerable pots and the tender plants in them. At a minimum, move pots under cover, where they will dry off to minimize the thaw effects of weather. Finally, look back at the season and see what worked well, and what can you change for next year. Maybe you need to expand your garden and reduce the number of trees and shrubs? Which plants did well, and which one might you trade out for something else next year? Enjoy your last tomato plant while watching old man winter make his way in. Spring will be here before you know it, so relax and enjoy this season of change.