Autumn and Winter months signal a dormant time in the garden but gardeners don’t have to hibernate as well. These are fall and winter tasks to care for garden plants.
Just because the sun is out for fewer hours, and the weather is cooling off doesn’t mean there is nothing left for gardeners to do! Here are several tasks and items for gardeners to tend to for winter plant health.
Lift Tender Plants or Take Cuttings
Tender perennials or annuals that will die back at the first sign of frost can be rescued by lifting them and storing overwinter or by taking cuttings to nurture indoors during the winter for replanting in the spring.
Plants to lift and overwinter include (in many areas) Dahlias, Pelargoniums (annual Geraniums), Cineraria (or Senecio Cruentus), Gladiolus, Verbena, Cannas, Chrysanthemum, and many more.
Care for Winter Plants Staying Outdoors
If gardeners have plants staying outside in the winter weather there are several things they can do to help the plants stay healthy. Cut back on watering dormant plants to discourage lush foliage growth that can be damaged by hard freezes.
Protect landscape shrubs, roses, trees and newly planted perennials with thick mulch or banking straw and other insulators around them. Move containers with dormant perennials into a sheltered location such as against a wall, in the garage or near a fence that can serve as a windbreak and temperature stabilizer.
These container plants should be watered occasionally to prevent the plant from drying up completely with just enough water to moisten the soil, not drip out and run off.
Clean and Put Away Garden Machinery and Tools
This is a great time for gardeners to check over their lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, motorized tillers and other garden equipment. Sharpen any dull blades, clean out grass and other plant debris, oil moving parts and check any electrical equipment to be sure it is in safe working order.
Now store everything in a safe location out of the harsh winter weather that can damage motorized parts with hard freezes, or rust metal blades in a few months time. All the gardening equipment and machinery is now ready to go when the warm spring weather arrives and winter is over!
Put Garden Borders and Plots To Bed
Dead plant material can be cleaned up now or later depending on what the gardener wants for structural interest in the winter garden. Non-weed plant stems and dead foliage can be added to the compost pile, and regardless of when the gardener cuts back this dead growth, the entire bed can be worked over.
One last tilling or turning over of the soil will make spring chores easier. Lay a thick layer of mulch over the entire area to help add organic matter to the soil and protect any remaining plants from hard freezes, root heaving and other winter damage. Most sources suggest this mulch should be at least four inches thick.
Curl up with Hot Cocoa and Garden Catalogs!
Recent studies suggest dark chocolate is healthy for the heart and that is advice most of us can take to heart during cold winter months! Find a comfy, warm chair and get out last year’s garden journal, all your recent gardening catalogs and plant price lists and start considering what to plant next year. Winter is the season for gardening dreams!