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Gardening & Agriculture Gardening & Agriculture General

Winterize Your Garden

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by: Moon Apple
Winterize Your Garden

A gardener is never done!

A gardeners work is never done, and during fall, this means it’s time to get your growing space ready for winter. Now I know what some of you are thinking is it really necessary? The short answer is yes! You've already spent a lot of time, energy, and money on your garden, so its important to protect your investment. Here are the most essential, must-do tasks for winterizing the garden. It's all about prepping for colder weather. You can complete all of these tasks in just a couple of hours with only a few tools and materials. 

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Step 1, clean out all weeds 

Clean out all the weeds is not a fun job, but its got to be done along with dead leaves, plant parts, and any invasive or diseased plants. Pretty much anything you wouldn't want in your garden during growing season, it's important to get out now. If you suspect a plant might be infected because it was infested with bugs, didn't grow well, or had odd coloring, now's the time for it to go. You don't want those plants to continue invading your garden or spreading their ill will throughout the area. (Psst! Here are 10 invasive species you should never, ever grow. Its so much easier to do in the fall, Olivier says. The strong mature roots are easier to see, and you can pull them out whole. Now some gardeners will also take the time to completely clear their veggie plants and cut back their perennials. This step is really a matter of preference, but many gardeners like to leave their perennials be for added winter interest. Coneflowers and ornamental grasses look beautiful covered in the snow, plus they add extra food for the birds. I am a proponent of allowing flowering perennials to die back natural, Olivier says. This is what nature intends. If you do insist on cutting everything down, be sure to leave at least six inches of stem and leaves. This will help with protection.

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Step 2, protect your garden beds 

Protect your new garden beds.Did you add a new flower garden this season? When you're trying to establish plants especially perennials—the first season is often the most important. As the plants are getting established, it doesn't hurt to add a little extra coverage over the winter. Try a garden cloche, and drape it over your entire garden area. Be sure to check the size and get the appropriate one for your area. Keep in mind that this is something you'll mostly do for new perennial beds, not veggie gardens or already established flower beds. Veggies gardens don't really need winter protection. However, if you want to try to continue growing veggies like lettuce or radishes, install a cold frame to continue growing even in winter.

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Step 3, plant your bulbs 

Plant your bulbs.This doesn't fall in the clean-up category, but it's still an important list item to get done before the ground freezes. Plus there's a reason it's on the winter list. Many times, gardeners have trouble planting bulbs. Either the ground is too hard or they have clay soil, and they never seem to get the hole deep enough. You need it several inches deep, in most cases, so it has good protection over winter and is ready to bloom in spring. If you've had trouble in the past planting bulbs, try a power planter, which works by hooking up to a portable drill! Personally, this is my new favorite garden tool.

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Step 4, give your plants a last drink 

Give your plants one last drink, and then turn the water off. Water is a plants best friend, and when you're trying to establish new ones, its very important! Before you turn off your water for the winter no one wants busted pipes outdoors you'll want to give your garden a nice long drink. This is especially the case for new trees, shrubs, and perennials. You don't have to worry about keeping the watering up through frost time, but you can give your plants a little extra help when you remember to do a final watering of the season. For timing, try to do this about a week or two before the ground freezes in your area. When you turn your water off, be sure to empty and store hoses, rain barrels, and other gardening supplies so they don't crack from the cold.

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Step 5, put a winter jacket on 

Put a winter jacket on your trees, shrubs, and rosebushes. A winter jacket for plants? Absolutely! When you're trying to establish these trees, shrubs, and rosebushes in your backyard or garden, they often need extra protection from those harsh winter winds. Here are two common products gardeners use:fleece jackets that go over the plant or cones which are commonly used with rosebushes. If you want to fashion your own, try using garbage bags, burlap, landscape fabric, or large cardboard boxes. You just want to make sure you secure them well so they don't blow off on the most frigid days.

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Step 6, dig up your tender plants 

Dig up your tender plants. If you have cannas, dahlias, elephant ear, or other sensitive bulbs and tubers like these, then you need to dig them up before winter. You'll want to place them in a dark, cool location like the basement but research the best storage recommendation based on plant. Then in spring, you can replant them for another season. If you don't do this, you risk losing the plant altogether. Since many of these can be pricey, you don't want to risk it over the winter. In addition, many gardeners will also move their favorite annuals like begonias or geraniums indoors this time of year as well. Whether they make it through to spring is a bit of a gamble, but if you have the space, it doesn't hurt to try. Sure, you expect to buy annuals new every year. But if you can keep them going during winter dash;even better. (Have houseplants?here's how to keep them alive. Cut back, keep fairly dry, and store in cool, bright conditions. They aren't going to bloom indoors, but the idea here is to just keep them alive. This is best for experienced gardeners or those with cool, bright porches or a greenhouse.

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Step 7, add some extra mulch 

Add some extra mulch. Mulch feels like a spring task, but there's a reason to put it on the fall list, too. Having good mulch in your garden is one of the single best things you can do as a gardener. It adds organic matter to the soil, naturally deters weeds, and further insulates and protects the plants. Contrary to popular opinion, the purpose of mulch is not to keep plants warm. Quite the opposite the purpose is to keep them cold. A blanket of insulation (mulch and snow) actually helps keeps the ground frozen until spring, which is what you want so your plants don't try to thaw out and grow prematurely. If you have areas of your garden that are looking a little bare, add mulch before those cold temperatures hit. Even if you don't jacket or cloche your plants, this can help so much because it will protect the roots and the area of plants that are most vulnerable. On a budget? Instead of wood chips, try using your leaves as mulch.

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Karen Olivier, a master gardener in Canada. All photo's GETTY IMAGES

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I'm interested in everything that has to do with sustainability. My house is solar powered and I have my own water supply and filtering system.  I grow my own vegetables and fruit. Most of the time I go on the road by bicycle and for long distances I use public transport.  
I'm interested in everything that has to do with sustainability. My house is solar powered and I have my own water supply and filtering system.  I grow my own vegetables and fruit. Most of the time I go on the road by bicycle and for long distances I use public transport.  
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