Winterizing Your Garden

By Virginia Bacon

Thyme in the Garden has some suggestions for winterizing your perennial gardens.

First, you may hear a lot of talk about mulching plants for he winter. This is an important step you can take to protect some different types of plants. Unprotected ground in the winter alternately freezes and thaws which means it expands and contracts. These “frost heaves” can make small plants pop out of the ground or break small roots. Mulching the ground with a 4 to 6-inch layer of organic material in autumn after the soil has frozen slightly helps keep the soil frozen all winter and prevents temperature fluctuations at the base of plants.

 Many different things can be used as mulch. Straw, leaves, compost are some examples. If you choose to use leaves, which are in abundance in the fall, make sure you use your mower to chop the leaves into small pieces before mulching with them. Layers of big wet leaves can actually promote disease. Mulching is beneficial to your garden but make sure it is not to heavy or to much.

Crowns of peonies and other shallow perennials can be mulched lightly with a loose pile of evergreen branches to allow a bit of breathing room beneath snow. This can also benefit fall planted, spring flowering bulbs. Plants that have small tufts of green growth through the winter usually benefit more from exposure to the winter sun. So they should be very lightly mulched if at all. They are more susceptible to disease if smothered underneath a damp mulch.

Plants that set growing buds in the fall, such as roses, hydrangeas, some clematis and figs benefit from extra insulation to protect some of the buds. For roses, you can make a mixture of equal parts good garden soil and compost or aged manure. Cover the base of canes up to 12 inches. Boxes, cold frames, inverted bushel baskets, pots or any other covering can be used for winter protection. Some gardening stores also sell special products to cover your roses and other plants with.

And just a little short note for the bird lovers in our gardening community. Even thought cutting all your perennials down in the fall before winter comes can make your garden look tide, there are some birds who will eat the seeds of certain flowers left through out the winter. Some examples are Liatris, Coneflower, and Rhubeckia. If you don't’ mind the untidy look, then leave them up and see who visits.


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