Garden Clippings: Prepare Your Garden for Winter

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Garden cleanup decreases food sources for winged additions to the garden, so consider leaving bird feeders out year-round.

The calendar might say winter doesn’t start until Dec. 21, but in my garden, the season starts this month.

November is the time of year when we see the last colors of the growing season giving way to the shades of a dormant landscape. With the cold Canadian winds whipping across the country, it’s often difficult to get motivated about working in the garden, but there are numerous things that need to be completed before putting the gardening tools away for the season.

Cleaning up garden foliage now will help decrease the incidence of disease next season. A good example of this is the removal of peony stems and foliage, if your plants have experienced botrytis blight – the gray mold that causes the foliage of this and other garden plants to look so dismal. Garden litter also becomes a haven in which insects can seek shelter from the winter weather.

Keeping the yard’s leaves raked or mulched is important to maintain your turf through the winter season. Too many leaves accumulating can smother out turf grasses if they aren’t removed periodically. Maple leaves seem to be a big culprit, especially after a little rainfall, when they get matted together.

Don’t forget to mulch the strawberry bed with straw or leaves. Mulch should be applied after there is some frost in the ground. Mulching strawberries serves two purposes: to keep the winter weather from damaging the plants, and to keep the soil cold, so the plants won’t begin to grow until spring is really here.

November is also a good time to mound the roses in your garden. Sometimes, gardeners get in too big of a hurry to complete this task. The plants need enough cold weather to bring on dormancy and drop their foliage naturally. Mounding or mulching roses before this happens can cause damage to the stems, defeating the purpose of this protection. Of course, the newer shrub roses being offered for sale don’t need this protection.

Now is also the time to do some pruning in the berry patch. The past season’s fruiting stems of the raspberry can be removed. Since this plant’s fruit occurs on two-year-old stems, they should be removed once the season is over. Pruning these out now will decrease the carryover of disease, and it will get a job out of the way that would only add to the gardener’s hectic springtime workload.

Last but not least, make notes of what was good about the garden this past season, as well as those things that you weren’t happy with. These notes, taken while memories of the past season are still fresh, will serve you well as you’re inside during these next few winter months, planning for next year’s garden.

For those of you gardeners who don’t leave bird feeders out year-round, it’s time to re­consider. Put them out this month. Garden clean-up decreases the food sources for these winged additions to the garden, and what a colorful addition they can make to the winter landscape.

Remember to give the garden plants one more good drink of water before you put the hoses away for the winter. Even though the garden may be turning dormant, plants need to stay hydrated to survive the dormant months. Not only will newly installed plants benefit from this, but perennials with shallow root systems, as well as shrubs, trees and conifers will also benefit.