Preparing for Winter

The arrival of November and cooler temperatures means we’re into the gardening cleanup season, busily preparing for winter. It also means it’s time to get your yard in shape for the upcoming cold and snow.

It’s time to mulch around your trees. This is especially true of trees which you don’t want to have bloom early in the spring such as peaches and apricots. The mulch acts as a protectant and even though it keeps the ground warm, it also will help to keep it cool in the spring so that your fruit trees don’t bloom too early. It’s one way to trick Mother Nature and perhaps save your orchard from a late freeze. Mulch also helps retain much needed winter moisture and protect from freezing and thawing regularly, and gives some protection against frost heaves that can uproot young or newly planted trees.

You’ll thank yourself later if you dig the hole now before the ground freezes hard if you are planning on purchasing a live tree for Christmas. Cover it with a tarp or plastic to keep the leaves and small critters out until after the holidays.

If you planted new roses this year, protect them so that they are happy through the winter. Use rose collars or mulch and mound them up to 10-12 inches with dirt or mulch to protect the graft union. Be sure to remove any leaves around the base that have built up before doing your mulching in order to prevent diseases from setting in over the winter.

Clean up your perennial bed on a warm sunny day. Once the tops have frozen hard, cut them back if you wish, but be sure to leave 8-10″. You should also plan to blow out your irrigation system, if you haven’t already done so, to prevent the water in those lines from freezing.

It’s important to move birdbaths and fountains inside or to a protected place to keep them from freezing and cracking through the winter. Trust me- a pile of concrete rubble where a majestic fountain once stood is not a pretty sight!

Begin your winter watering schedule, particularly for those trees, shrubs, and perennials that were newly planted this year. As a rule of thumb, pick a warm day and water deeply once a month. An easy way to remember this is to water on or around each holiday between Halloween and Easter, depending when that falls.

And a final thought – gardening can be one of the best things you can do for yourself. It’s therapeutic. It’s one constant that goes on year after year, season after season, no matter what happens in the rest of the world. It provides continuity in our lives and helps us appreciate the beauty to be found in the world around us. Gardens soothe and nurture.

Take some time during these golden days to enjoy the fresh, crisp air and enjoy the pleasure of working in your yard before the snows of winter set in. There’s still a lot of great fall weather left to enjoy!