By Gail Vanik
Before you hang up your garden tools for the season, a final chore is to put your garden to bed for winter, and that means protecting your plants so that they survive the cold and thrive next spring.
Prepare your lawn for spring by applying winterizer fertilizer. Apply it on a day when the weather is above freezing. Winterizer promotes deep rooting during the winter for a healthier lawn in spring. It’s a slow-release blend, so each time we have rain or snow, a little burst of fertilizer will be released, rather than having a big shot right now. If you’ve never tried winterizer fertilizer, you will be surprised at how well it can work for your lawn.
Put tree protectors or use tree wrap on young or newly planted trees. First, it will protect them against harmful rays of the winter sun. Light-colored bark trees such as locust, ash and maples are all especially susceptible and need this protection. Tree protectors and wrap also will protect them against deer that may want to browse or rub against them throughout the winter.
Also protect trees with a fresh layer of mulch. The mulch insulates trees and protects them against freezing and thawing and helps to keep frost heaves that can uproot young or newly planted trees to a minimum. Mulch also helps to retain moisture and keep roots moist through winter so they don’t freeze-dry.
If you have fruit trees, mulch can be especially important, particularly for peaches or apricots that you don’t want to have bloom early in spring. Each spring, once we get that first bit of warm weather, many of the fruit trees will bloom only to have the blossoms freeze resulting in a fruitless season. Even though you initially apply mulch to keep the ground warm, it also can help to keep it from warming up too quickly in spring and keep fruit trees from blooming too early.
Mulch should also be used to protect roses so that they are happy through winter and go into spring as healthy as possible. Mound it up to about 10-12 inches around the bush to protect the graft. Be sure to remove leaves that have built up around the base before adding the mulch in order to prevent diseases that could form from trapped rotting leaves.
Protect your perennial bed by cleaning it up now. After the tops have frozen hard, cut them back but be sure to leave at least 8-10 inches of growth. Plant your bulbs now if you haven’t already done that. The weather has cooled enough that there is little chance of them sprouting.
If you are planning on a live Christmas tree this year, a final chore would be to dig the hole for it now, before the ground freezes hard. Cover the hole with a tarp or plastic to keep it from filling with leaves and debris and to protect your kids from falling in.
A little time doing some protective chores in your garden now will result in a much easier spring when it’s time to wake the garden up. Not only will your plants survive the winter much more happily, they will also thrive next year thanks to the protection and care you have given them.
Gail Vanik can be reached at 970-565-8274 or by email at email@example.com.