November 4th, 2014
By Jason Parr
Fall is here again! The vibrant colored foliage was a wonderful reward after a year of hard work in the garden. Now that we have enjoyed the colors, it’s time to think about preparing your garden for the winter. There are many things you can do to put your garden to bed for the winter, but I’ll touch on a few important and sometimes overlooked tasks.
After a hard frost, perennial plants (plants that lives longer than two years) will go dormant and annuals will die completely. Their leaves will die back to the ground and turn brown. Remove the annuals from the garden, being sure to remove the whole plant. Trim the dead foliage of the perennials back to the ground. Leave the tops of perennials that may provide winter interest such as ornamental grasses or those with attractive seed heads. Put all of the removed material in your compost pile, yard waste bin or take to a compost collection site. In order to decrease the amount of diseases in your garden, remove all diseased foliage and send it out with the yard waste collection. Do not compost diseased material; you do not want to spread that disease around your garden if it lives in the soil.
After you’ve taken care of the perennials and annuals, it’s important to not forget about the trees and shrubs. Damage on young trees and shrubs from hungry rabbits and rodents is a common problem. To protect shrubs, make a fence with hardware cloth that is at least a 2 feet tall around each shrub and secure the fence into the ground with sod staples or stakes. To protect young trees purchase a plastic bark guard at your local garden center; it will also serve to protect the bark from sunscald (winter injury to the bark on the south side of the tree). When trees and shrubs are older, they can often withstand some nibbling from animals during the winter.
The final important task to take on before winter is to water evergreen trees and shrubs. Watering your evergreens will help prevent winter burn and dieback on these plants that was so prevalent after last year’s winter. Some plants were able to recover with new growth, but others succumbed to the harsh weather. Evergreens transpire water through their needles during the winter so they can’t go into the winter thirsty. Winter burn on evergreens is particularly prevalent with plants that are south and southwest facing or are in windy areas. Arborvitae, yew and boxwood are particularly susceptible and are common landscape plants. The easiest thing you can do to protect your evergreens during the winter is to water them deeply at least once or twice before the ground freezes in late November. This is especially important for newer plantings. Do not overwater your evergreens and do not wrap your evergreens in burlap because it can wick away moisture from the needles.
These are just a few tips from the laundry list of things that you can do in your garden before winter, but these will help protect your investment and keep your garden looking beautiful. Happy gardening!
Emily Kowalski is a horticulturist by education and training. Currently, she is the Production Manager at Out Back Nursery, a native plant nursery in Hastings, MN. When she is not working, she can often be found enjoying the beautiful green spaces or great breweries in the Twin Cities.