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Publication: Garden Guides
Winterizing Your Garden

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                   GardenGuides Newsletter 
                      November 21, 2006

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Winterizing Your Garden

Protecting Plants 

Putting the garden to bed for the winter is mostly a matter 
of cleaning up and covering up. As fall progresses and temper-
atures drop, those plants that aren't killed outright by frost 
prepare for dormancy. Clear out the blackened stems and foliage 
of annual flowers and vegetables to prevent the possibility of 
their harboring disease pathogens and insect eggs over the 
winter. The cool weather is a good time to make a cold frame, 
dig and box in raised beds, and make general repairs.
   
While it appears as if all activity in the garden has stopped, 
there's a lot going on under the soil until it freezes. Newly 
transplanted trees and shrubs, divisions of perennials, and 
hardy bulbs are all growing roots, drawing on soil nutrients 
and moisture around them. Earthworms and various microbes in 
the soil are still processing the organic material they're 
finding. Most likely, the organic mulch you spread to protect 
the soil during the summer months has substantially decomposed. 
It's important to spread new mulch now -- a thicker winter 
layer -- to protect plants and soil over the winter months. 
The idea is not so much to keep the soil warm as it is to keep 
the temperature even. Once the soil is frozen, mulch keeps it 
frozen. So if you have shade trees, convert the fallen leaves 
to mulch and use it throughout your property.

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Weather 

Snow both protects and endangers plants. A good snow cover 
insulates the soil like a mulch. However, snow piled on ever-
green branches weights them down, risking breakage. Knock snow 
from the bottom branches first, then work upward. This way snow 
from above will not add weight to the already burdened lower 
branches. If branches are bowed by ice, don't try to free them. 
Instead let the ice melt and release them gradually.
 
-Cut back dry stems of perennials to soil level after frost to 
neaten the garden and remove pest eggs and disease spores that 
may linger. Leave stems with attractive seed heads for winter 
interest. 
 
-Compost dead plant debris to create an organic soil conditioner. 
Hot, active piles kill weed seeds and disease pathogens; passive, 
inactive piles do not. Throw questionable plant material in the 
trash. 
  
-Cut off diseased foliage from evergreen plants and shrubs and 
discard it in the trash. Rake up and discard the old, disease-
bearing mulch, too. 

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-To prevent rodents from nesting in the soil, wait until the 
ground freezes before adding a 6-inch layer of organic 
material as winter mulch. 
 
-Mulch perennial and shrub beds with pine needles or chopped 
leaves. This protects both plant roots and the soil and moder-
ates the effects of extreme temperature changes during winter 
freezes and thaws. 
 
-Mulch bulb beds with evergreen boughs to protect the soil 
from shifting and cracking during the winter. Otherwise 
plants, especially small, shallowly planted bulbs, can be 
heaved to the surface. 
 
-Protect the tender bark of young trees from gnawing critters 
by wrapping stems or trunks with wire or commercial tree-guard 
products. 
 
-Screen evergreens, particularly exposed broad-leaved types, 
from drying winter wind and sun by setting up burlap screens 
or shade cloth shelters. 

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Copyright 2006 by NextEra Media. All rights reserved.

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