Dig It! - Ready, Set, Winterize
by Sage & Snow Garden Club
November 3, 2008
I know it's hard to believe, but winter is approaching and it's time to prepare your garden. Here are a few tips to ensure a beautiful garden next year.
Put cages around roses and perennials and fill them with dry leaves that you have crushed with your feet or that have been run over with the lawn mower. This protects the plants from wind damage and the ground around their roots stays a more constant temperature. For even more wind protection, wrap the cages with burlap.
Wrap trees to provide wind and deer protection. Use screens to block the prevailing winter wind, such as lathe, fence, window screens or snow fencing. Screen pines from sunburn later in the spring when the ground is frozen but the sun is bright with a burlap screen on the south side of the trees. Apply winter mulch around trees no deeper than 3 inches and keep the mulch away from tree trunks.
Cut perennials (except roses) back to different heights to trap mulch and snow and for general visual interest in the garden. Leave some seed heads and dried flowers for winter garden interest and to feed the birds.
You can try to overwinter perennials in containers, but your plants need to be very hardy and able to survive Zone 3 conditions, even though some of our area is Zone 4 or you might have Zone 4 microclimates in your garden. Your container should be at least 48 inches in diameter. You can increase your odds by moving the container to a sheltered spot, such as a garage or shed, over winter. Your best bet, however, is to transplant the perennials in the ground, where you know they will survive. Rhubarb, however, will survive over winter in a half whiskey barrel.
Continue to water until there is constant snow cover and when air and soil temperatures are at least 40 degrees. Water mid-day so water can have a chance to soak in before possible freezing temperatures at night. Winter drought can harm root systems of plants. Soil dries out faster in windy sites, so plants will need more supplemental water in these locations. Make sure to deep water trees out to the drip line. Drain hoses, but keep them out for now. To finally put them away for winter, coil and tie with short lengths of twine for easy handling. Be sure to drain pumps.
Be very careful if you decide to fertilize shrubs in fall. If you fertilize too early, you may stimulate new growth that will be harmed by freezing temperatures. Any fertilizer should be applied when all new growth has ceased, daytime temperatures have begun to moderate, and the soil holds adequate moisture - two or three weeks before your average first frost date is a good target.
Snow is a "poor man's mulch" because it provides an insulating blanket that keeps moisture in and prevents temperature fluctuations that might cause the soil to thaw and expand. Temperatures in the ground beneath the snow cover always hover around 32 degrees F, while they can plunge far below 0 degrees F immediately above the snow line.
You can begin a new garden this time of year by taking a section of lawn and mowing it very close. Next, cover it with several layers of newspapers (black ink only if you are going to plant vegetables) or cardboard, second with 2 or more inches of compost or manure and lastly, with 3-4 inches of shredded leaves.
Need something else to do with those leaves? Why not dig a few narrow trenches in your gardens, fill them with shredded leaves, and cover them up to improve drainage and organic matter. In spring, you can mix the decomposed leaves into the soil or plant right in the trenches.
Clean dirt off of hand tools and power tools and coat with a spray lubricant, such as WD-40, so they don't rust. Sharpen pruners, loppers, and hedge shears with a whetstone. Enhance the edges of shovels and hoes with a bastard mill file or bench grinder. Consult your power tool owner's manual for long-term storage instructions.
To keep moisture in opened bags of peat moss and peat-based potting soils, be sure to tightly roll up the bag tops. If the moisture content gets below 10 percent, the material becomes virtually impossible to re-wet.
To share garden stories and more gardening tips, please join the Sage and Snow Garden Club for our next meeting Tuesday, November 11 at 4:30 pm in the Pinedale library. Contact us at Box 2280, Pinedale, WY, 82941, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 859-8606. To find out more about the Garden Club, go to www.pindealeonline.com and click on the link under "clubs".