Winterizing 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.