Think of your garden as an investment: you poured a lot of yourself into it, some cash and perhaps more valuable than anything, is the time that it has taken for it to mature to where it is now. This is no time to sit back on your laurels and let nature take her course.
Our relationship with Mother Nature requires us to take some responsibility for the investment that you have in your garden. Winter is the most severe test of a gardener’s metal. What pops up through the soil next spring to a large extent will be determined by what you do in the next week or two.
Here is my list of top 5 winterizing tips:
Your lawn. The most important application of fertilizer to your lawn occurs this weekend [or so]. The low nitrogen and high potash content of the winterizer formulas of lawn food help to build up the natural sugars at the root zone of the grass plants. Healthy roots = healthy plants that will bounce back come spring. Fertilizing now will not knock your socks off: there is really nothing to show for you effort until spring. A healthy lawn will resist snow mould, greens up quickly and fills in before weeds are able to get established. Look for 12-0-18 for a great looking lawn… come spring.
Fruit trees. Remember the ice storm of 2013? After the ice came record cold temperatures and one huge dump of snow after the other. The result? A very active rodent population chowed down on the tender bark of young fruit trees, killing many and maiming many others. A simple, plastic spiral wrap prevents this damage. For about $4 a pop you can save a fruit tree that may be on the cusp of producing a great crop. Remember what I said about your investment? This is the perfect example of how a little effort can save you a tonne of disappointment. Note that non-fruiting trees like crabapples, flowering cherries and plums also benefit from this protection.
Roses. If you have climbing, miniature and shrub roses you are off the hook. Hybrid teas, grandiflora and floribunda roses all need protection over the winter. Mound 60 to 80 cm of clean soil or triple mix over the base of each plant.
Do not prune them unless they are so high that they may blow over in winter winds. Prune in spring when any winter damage is evident.
Broad leafed evergreens. Most people don’t even know that they own a few of these. If you have yews [taxus], boxwood, holly or rhododendrons in your garden apply WiltPruf (with apologies for the spelling –it is an American product, what can I say?) This stuff works like magic at preventing wind burn, desiccation from the drying effects of our winter air and sunburn (mostly from the sun bouncing off the surface of the snow come March). Apply WiltPruf when the day time temperatures are above freezing for best effect. One application will do the job.
Cedars. Have you noticed all of the brown cedars in the last couple of years? Normally green, healthy cedars will turn brown when they make contact with salt. Road salt is the #1 enemy of cedars. Wrap them in two layers of burlap: one to protect them against wind damage and the other to insulate them from salt spray. This is especially true for cedars located on the east side of a road, even 50 or 60 meters from the road! As cars and trucks travel over the pavement they kick up salt spray and the prevailing westerly winds push the drift into your yard. Any cedar that is in the way will suffer, unless it is covered with burlap.
Add to this list the following:
– clean and lubricate your lawn mower
– clean and oil metal digging tools before you hang them up for the winter
– remove any lingering leaves from your lawn and put them either in your composting unit or just rake them onto your garden where hungry earthworms will pull them down into the soil next spring.
– plant spring flowering bulbs (if you haven’t already)
– feed the birds (more on that in a couple of weeks!)
I could go on, but you have earned the right to a rest. It was a long and productive gardening season after all. And even I – passionate gardener that I am – experience some relief at the sight of the first snow fall.