Friday, December 3, 2010

Winterizing Your Own Garden

Hello again to all our readers, volunteers, and fellow garden and sustainability enthusiasts,

For those of you who, like me, are perhaps more enthusiasts and less experts, we have been doing some further research about important things to remember when putting your garden down to hibernate for the winter months. The following are some important and easy tips and tasks to remember to preserve your garden until Puxatony Phil announces the arrival of spring:

  • Rake the leaves—Leaves might seem like a natural cover and a good insulator, but they can mat, and suffocate your plants. So rake them up, and compost, compost, compost.

  • Pull up Annuals—Any plants that have fallen victim to frost, and won’t be coming back next year can and should be pulled up. You can add these plants to your compost, just be sure to check and throw out any you think might be diseased.

  • Cut back the Perennials—Be sure to trim back any dead or unsightly leaves, etc. You probably won’t need to get rid of the whole plant, and those leaves that still look good can add some color to your winterized garden until you start growing again.

  • Weed—Might seem a bit superfluous to be weeding, particularly if you aren’t planning on growing anything this winter, but this gives you the opportunity to make sure weeds don’t get the head start on you in the spring.

  • Dig up tender bulbs—Any summer-blooming plants aren’t likely to survive the winter months in a USDA zone of 9, or colder. (Click on the map below to visit the USDA's website and learn more about your own area) Store bulbs in Vermiculite in a paper bag in a cool (65-degrees F or cooler), dry spot. (Tender bulbs may include: Begonias, Gladiolus, Dahlias, and other summer blooms)

  • Protect broad leaved Evergreens—Spray them with antidesiccant. This will prevent water loss and dehydration of your plants from drying winter winds.
    (Broad leaved evergreens might include: Rhodendrons or Holly)

  • Water Evergreens (and small trees)—If your fall weather is particularly dry, you want to make sure that the leaves and stems of your evergreens and trees are healthy and plump to survive the drying winds and winter months.

  • Save your favorite plants before the frosts hits, small annuals and herbs can flourish and brighten up windowsills in the winter months.

  • Be careful to avoid fertilizing your garden, or pruning at the end of a plant’s season, this promotes new growth that will be killed off by frost and cold. Trimming dead or damaged branches or leaves is fine though.

  • Winter mulch Perennials—If winter temperatures are likely to fall below 10-degrees F, you should provide your perennials with winter mulch to insulate them from the cold. Simple and lightweight mulches such as: shredded autumn leaves, pine needles, or straw will work. Avoid compact mulches and whole leaves since they can suffocate your plants.

    But just because it’s winter doesn’t mean there aren’t plants that will flourish in your garden in the winter months. One of the things we did in winterizing our garden was to plant plants which would reintroduce nitrogen and other nutrients this year’s crops may have taken out of our soil.

    This is a sample of what the Hayes Valley Farm, an urban farm in San Francisco, does to layer and add nutrients to their soil.

Again, thank you to all of you who follow our Learning garden's progress here on the blog, and have volunteered your time and hands to keeping our garden beautiful and running smoothly. And best of luck with your own winter gardens.