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7 jobs to get your yard ready for winter: This Weekend in the Garden

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It's time to get wind barriers into place to protect those cold-susceptible evergreens before winter gets serious.
It's time to get wind barriers into place to protect those cold-susceptible evergreens before winter gets serious. (George Weigel)

Winterizing the landscape

Temperatures could nosedive, and snow could start flying anytime from here on out.

You never know what to expect from the erratic weather we've been seeing in recent years, so it's best to prepare for the worst.

Here's a checklist of yardening winter-prep steps to consider:

1.) Protect the tender stuff. Plants that are borderline hardy in our climate benefit from some wind protection. Young plants and tender broadleaf evergreens are especially at risk of winter damage.

Burlap barriers are as good as anything for creating a temporary, inexpensive windbreak.

Hammer stakes in the ground around your plants, and wrap sheets of burlap (available in most garden centers) around them as opposed to draping the fabric directly over the plants.

Anti-transpirant sprays or "anti-desiccants" (common brands are Wilt-Pruf, Wilt Stop, and No Wilt Plant Shield) haven't been found to help with cold protection, so those age-old recommendations probably won't help. They were developed for reducing the transplant shock of moving plants during the growing season, not winter protection.

2.) Check the mulch. Mulch acts like a blanket to keep the soil slightly warmer and damper. Only snow is a better winter insulator.

mulch.pileH.jpg>Mulch helps moderate freezing and thawing of the soil, among other advantages.George Weigel 

Two inches is fine over perennial beds, and three inches is ideal over tree, shrub, and evergreen beds. If you don't have that amount, now is still a good time to apply it.

Mulch also moderates swings in soil temperature, which reduces episodes of freezing and thawing that can push the root balls of young plants up from the ground.

Keep the mulch a few inches back away from trunks and stems.

3.) Keep the soil damp. Root growth continues even after the season's first frost, generally up until the soil temperature at root level goes down to about 40 degrees. If the ground goes bone dry in fall after you've put away the hose, plants head into winter already suffering from moisture stress.

Keep the hose handy, and especially keep new plantings damp right up until the ground freezes.

4.) Get tender plants inside. If you haven't already done so, move plants inside that can't tolerate our winter weather.

Many potted tropicals will continue growing as houseplants all winter (just hose them off to get rid of bugs before taking them inside), while others will live in a sort of dormant or "hibernating" state if stored in pots in a garage or unheated basement over winter.

summerbulbs.drying.JPG>Dig and store tender bulbs inside before freezing soil turns them to mush.George Weigel 

Tender bulbs such as dahlias, cannas, callas, caladiums, and gladioli also should be dug, cleaned, dried, and stored in a cool, dark spot over winter.

Read more on how to keep tender plants inside over winter

5.) Take breakables inside. Other than the hose, get your freeze-wimpy and breakable garden do-dads inside before winter gets serious.

That includes clay and ceramic pots, rain gauges, delicate statuary, glass ornaments and whatever else doesn't fare well in ice storms.

Store them safely inside a garage, shed or attic for the winter.

6.) Head off animal damage. Get the fences up or the repellent sprays on your vulnerable landscape plants. Landscape plant damage goes up in winter as deer, rabbits, and voles turn to what's still green as their other choices disappear.

Erect wire barriers around landscape trees if you've had problems with bucks rubbing bark off with their antlers.

You might want to get cardboard or plastic-spiral tree wraps around your young tree trunks, too. Rabbits and rodents are fond of gnawing on tender bark. Go up high enough with wraps on the trunk to account for snow cover that can serve as a feeding platform. Even 3 feet up is not too high.

7.) Winterize the mower and garden tools. Drain left-over gas out of the lawn mower, tiller and other gas-powered garden tools so it doesn't gunk up over winter.

Change the oil, sharpen blades, and clean dried grass off the deck so the mower's ready to go in spring when you'll have a lot of other things to deal with.

How about sharpening your pruners and cleaning mud off the hand tools, too?

While you're at it, you might as well get the snow blower ready.

More when-to-do-what tips: George's "Pennsylvania Month-by-Month Gardening" book

Source :

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