Landscape Now: Preparing Your Landscape for Winter
Saturday, November 02, 2013
Seven Steps to Protect Your Landscape
1. The use of Anti-desiccants and Windscreens
One important step you can take to prevent evergreens (rhododendrons, Mt. laurels, andromedas, needled evergreens, boxwoods, hollies and azaleas) from having their leaves and needles turn brown from desiccation is to apply an anti-desiccant spray (wilt-proof, leaf-shield, etc.) while the temperatures are above 45 degrees to lightly coat the needles and leaves with a polymer that will prevent the wind and ice from drying out the plant. Additionally, you can erect a windscreen (burlap or plastic) to minimize the damage from wind and salt spray. Be sure to attach the screen securely and use stakes that are rugged enough to withstand the relentless winter winds.
2. Mulching Around Trees and Shrubs
Adding several inches of pine bark mulch around trees and shrubs will help to moderate soil temperatures during the cold winter months, prevent frost heaves and allow moisture to make its way into the plant’s roots during periods of rain and snow. Be sure not to build up the mulch around the trunk or base of the shrub...this can be a favorite spot for mice to establish a home during the winter and feed on the inner bark...possibly girdling and killing the tree or shrub!
3. Compost and Cover Crops for Vegetable Gardens
Now is a good time to remove your spent vegetable garden plants, sow annual rye or oats to the bare soil and add several inches of quality compost to the garden. The cover crop will be up in a week or so providing protection from losing topsoil, fixing nitrogen into the soil and adding nutrients to the soil when turned over in the spring (commonly known as green manure). The compost will add nutrients and humus to the soil in advance of the spring planting.
4. Cutting Back Perennials and Shrubs
The fall is a good time to cut back perennials so they will have an opportunity to put out new growth in the spring. Catmint, Black eyed Susan’s, daisies, peonies, grasses, Annabelle hydrangeas and many others can be cut back to the base of the plant. However, perennials like lavender do not like to be cut back severely, shrubs like Nikko hydrangeas can be dead headed but if you cut them to the ground they will survive but produce no flowers next summer!
5. Dahlia and Rose Care
Dahlia is a plant that must be dug up in the fall before it freezes and its roots stored in a paper bag in a dry, cool basement. After digging up you can cut off the stems and flowers and make sure to label your different varieties of dahlias.
There are numerous care steps for the many kinds of roses. Generally you can mulch or use leaves around the base of the rose after the ground is frozen to protect the roots and graft (swollen knob near the base of the plant). In the spring you will remove the mound of compost, soil or leaves. Pruning hybrid teas, floribundas and other roses can take place in the spring. For shrub roses pruning can be as simple as removing old wood and dead canes.
6. Use your Leaves for Mulch
When it comes time to rake up all those leaves from your lawn and beds consider mulching them with your mower, piling them in an empty area in your yard and using some to mulch your gardens and beds. In the spring the leaves can be incorporated into the garden as mulch and the pile of shredded leaves can be added to your compost pile. Leaves can serve as an insulator for your plants and ultimately provide nutrients to the landscape beds.
7. One Last Watering
Before the ground freezes it is a good practice to water your trees, shrubs and perennials deeply before winter sets in. This will provide needed moisture in the ground and around the roots for the plant to use preventing leaf desiccation when winter winds blow because the ground is frozen inhibiting water uptake. This is especially important for newly planted trees and shrubs that may not have fully developed their new, expanded root systems.
These are several simple steps you can take to help protect your valuable trees and shrubs, incorporate nutrients into your soil, prevent soil loss to winds and turning some of your “wastes” like leaves into a valuable resource!
In the next article I will share steps to prepare your lawn and water features and fish ponds for winter!
“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape-the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.” —Andrew Wyeth
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