You can greatly improve your garden’s health in the spring by preparing it for the winter. Here are some tips to help you do just that.
Remove Spent Annuals
Now is a great time to remove the annuals that are spent or dead. Their bloom life is over, so chances are they aren’t very pretty anyway. And leaving them to be cleaned up next spring means providing pests and animals with material they could use for shelters. While you are doing this, I encourage you to take notes on this season’s plantings: what colors you liked, what material fared well, and which didn’t perform as well as advertised. You can use that information next year to help you select annuals that will not only delight you but will also thrive in your garden.
Prune Back Perennials
We also encourage you to cut back perennials that are no longer blooming and are in decline. Some people will start cutting them back as soon as their blooms are gone, while others wait until they show the signs of dying back such as yellowing foliage and stems. You may want to leave some, however, such as Purple Coneflower (echinacea) or Black-Eyed Susan (rudbeckia), standing through the winter since their seeds will attract birds. You’ll want to avoid pruning back your roses, however, as they’ll be fooled into pushing out new and tender growth that would be harmed by the first frost. Here, too, you may wish to take notes: mark locations of existing perennials and map out where you might want to place transplanted divisions or new perennials and even bulbs.
Weed, Weed, Weed
It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. There’s a saying in gardening circles: “One year of seeds equals seven years of weeds.” Letting weeds live through a life cycle means letting them go to seed, and those seeds will settle in and populate your garden. If you want to keep weeds at a minimum in your beds, removing them now before the spring arrives will go a long way to achieving that goal. Waiting till the spring will mean giving those weeds a head start on establishing themselves when spring arrives, and the last thing you’ll want to see in the spring are a batch of weeds sprouting in your garden beds. And if you do find yourself pulling weeds in the next few weeks, remember not to shake dirt from their roots when you remove them: doing so will not only shake the dirt off into your garden but also the weeds’ seeds.
Lay Down Compost
Spreading compost over your empty beds now gives those nutrients time to work into your soil through the winter and early spring. Half an inch to an inch will be sufficient, and some people cover their compost with mulched leaves to further help the process. Don’t spread compost on your roses, however, until the ground has frozen. If you do, you’ll invite pests to use the compost as insulation while they feed on your roses’ roots.
Seasonal Color Specialist
Schumacher Companies, Inc.