FROM THE ARCHIVES: PUTTING IT TO BED
Prepping the Garden for the Winter Season
- If you happen to have a mulching leaf vacuum and you have oak trees…be sure to use that wonderful stuff as mulch for your Rhododendrons, Azaleas, blue Hydrangeas and other acid-loving plants. There’s nothing better! Even if you don’t have one of those machines (they ARE noisy and gas-guzzling), your oak leaves, whole, will provide a nourishing mulch and break down faster than other leaves do. Virginia Umberger, who taught me everything about the significance of each individual plant, would keep a ready supply of oak leaves through all four seasons to use as mulch. She is in her late nineties and still carrying water from her rain barrel to the sun garden across the street.
- My mom, who taught me everything about the universe of fine gardening from the start, and who still tends to her beautiful gardens with an eye to the immaculate, doesn’t have oak leaves on her property. She knows the value of pine needles which are in ample supply, and uses them to advantage in her Rhododendron and Hydrangea beds. I must post some photos of her gardens.
- Cut back to an inch above ground all of your perennial plants. if you’re enjoying the seedheads or post-frost foliage then by all means don’t cut back!
- This is an optimal time to divide, transplant perennials if they’ve outgrown their spots.
- Bring Hydrangea heads into the house…just place into containers (leaves removed) for all-winter enjoyment.
- No pruning of Roses, Butterfly Bushes, Caryopteris til early spring! If in doubt about anything, don’t prune. Doing so now encourages new growth which will be vulnerable to the cold, and may well kill the plant.
- When there’s time, I like to edge all beds for a neat appearance through winter.
Containers….remove plants, soil, and turn upside-down. Concrete containers will be ok with soil. A planter you really care about that may be too heavy to store or turn over can be safe-guarded by covering the opening with a piece of plywood, then wrapping the entirety with bubble wrap (you may want to then cover with burlap and raffia which looks a whole lot nicer).
- We plant bulbs through mid-January. Don’t stress if you haven’t the time right now. A word of caution…bulbs can easily become moldy and useless…so be sure yours are stored where there is good air circulation and little moisture if you’re not going to be planting for a while.
- Dahlias…if you have a dry spot indoors for storing them, lift from the ground with an inch or two of the stalk remaining, and wash the dirt off. Check every so often during the next few months, with a water sprtizer in hand, if they are too dry. They can be divided now (check for new growth nodules to determine which will be viable next year) w/ a sharp knife or in early spring.
- You’ll be replanting them in April. Or…if the following months are not terribly wet, your tubers will be safe in the ground with a 12 inch layer of leaves and landscape cloth, attached to the ground with sod staples (available at most garden centers) to cover.
- Cannas are somewhat more forgiving than Dahlias of how they’re stored. Wash them and place them in your garage or basement, plant in late April/early May.
It’s not too late to repair your lawn with sod…in fact, it’s the easiest time of year for establishing. Call or email if you want a top-quality resource.
- The winter garden has its own charms. Be thoughtful of that as you prepare.
We can help with all of the above and more.