Getting your garden ready for winter is mostly a matter of cleaning out and covering up. In addition to winterizing your home, the following practices will help ensure your garden can survive the short days and bitter nights that winter brings to many parts of the country.
- Cut, clean and compost. Begin by cleaning up the garden area. Removing plant debris will keep your garden looking tidy over the winter and stop the spread of diseases and insects. Cut down and compost any vegetables that have not been harvested. Cut back dead or faded foliage on perennials after the first hard frost, and add to the compost pile. Never compost diseased or pest-infested plants.
- Eliminate weeds. Pull weeds and other unwanted plants. Take care to properly dispose of seed heads in a covered garbage can, not the compost pile. Rake up and compost fallen leaves on the lawn, and mow one last time.
- Continue watering trees and shrubs through the fall. These plants will weather the winter better if they remain hydrated. Evergreens are particularly prone to dehydration because they release moisture through their leaves year-round.
- Add compost. Fall is an ideal time to add compost to the soil. As it breaks down over the winter, it will improve the soil and help your plants become more productive next spring. How much compost you need to apply depends on your location and the soil characteristics; consult your local extension office for recommendations.
- Spread mulch. When the weather becomes colder and the ground freezes, add a six-inch layer of organic mulch over perennials and around trees. Mulching is especially important for young perennials that have not yet developed an extensive root system. It keeps the soil a consistent temperature and lessens the effects of freeze/thaw cycles that may cause the ground to heave and uproot new plants.
- Store garden tools. Clean gardening tools before storing them safely in a garden shed or garage so they will be ready for spring.
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