Winterizing your garden
It’s that time of year again. Prepare your garden areas for colder temperatures and plenty of rain.
Heavy rainfalls have taken their toll on many garden annuals and perennials. They will make great compost, but removing them will leave your garden looking rather bare. Hardy winter colour, set out now, will add new life and provide much needed colour to your winterscape.
Strategically planting winter colour in groups with contrasting blocks of bright colours, like yellow with more pastel shades, creates the most pleasing effect. Groupings of hardy Red Bor and Winter Bor kale, winter-blooming heather, violas and pansies, bright evergreen foliaged perennials and evergreen grasses, placed here and there in your garden and close to your walkways, will give a tremendous lift to your winter garden.
It is still the ideal time to plant your fall bulbs. Plant them in well-drained soil at a depth of three times the diameter of the bulb. Plant bulbs in groupings for the most pleasing effect.
With proper planning, you can time your bulbs to bloom in sequence from January through June. I’m a big fan of botanical or species bulbs that naturalize easily and come back each year with an even more impressive display. Make sure you have at least a few alliums for a great summer show in June and July.
It’s the last call for lifting and protecting summer bulbs. Gladiola corms and begonia tubers should have been lifted by now, and they must be kept warm at about 15 degrees Celsius. It is also the time to lift dahlia and canna tubers.
Many late vegetables can stay in the garden for winter harvesting. These include turnips, parsnips, Brussel sprouts, Swiss chard and the new series of winter vegetables. If you do not have proper vegetable storage, you can place a thick mulch of bark over your root crops and leave them in the ground as long as possible.
Fall is a great time to add existing compost to your garden, and there is still time to plant Garden Rejuvenation Mix for invaluable green manure in the spring.
Speaking of compost, make sure you take full advantage of all the leaves, old annuals and vegetable stems by composting them over the winter. You might also wish to add more sand to your vegetable garden to improve the drainage next year. Applying lime is important now too, except of course where you are going to grow potatoes.
Cut your lawns quite low (one-and-a-half to two inches) one more time to allow more air circulation in and around the root systems. This can prevent many disease problems.
To prevent moss from taking over your lawn, maintain a high level of nutrients by applying a controlled-release, high-nitrogen fertilizer, something like Scott’s Turfbuilder Wintercare 30-0-9, and by applying prilled lime at the rate of 10 kilograms per 2,000 square feet to prevent acidic soil.
It is too late now to seed new lawns, but aerating and sanding existing lawns now would sure make a huge difference.
Trees and shrubs
Now is the best time to plant most evergreens, fruit trees and shade trees. They are becoming dormant and, once planted, they will immediately form new roots. By spring, they will have well-established root systems. Some points to remember:
The quality of the soil in which you plant your new trees will determine how well your trees grow. Work in plenty of fine bark mulch to open up and provide good drainage in our heavy clay soils.
If your trees are in burlap sacks, you should leave the sack on the rootball – it’s holding all those roots together.
Bare root trees can be safely planted now. They will make new roots, getting them off to a great start come spring.
If you use a liquid starter, your trees will get a faster start. Evergreen hedges, planted now, will provide a good windbreak for cold winter winds, thereby helping to keep your fuel bill down a little. Hedges will also give you privacy and at the same time, beautify your home. So all things considered, an evergreen hedge is an excellent investment.
Many fall-flowering trees and shrubs can be planted now to provide winter beauty. These include viburnum Pink Dawn, autumn flowering cherries, Chinese witch hazel, ornamental grasses, jasmine and the many varieties of berried plants to name just a few. It is critical that you begin organic dormant spraying with Green Earth Lime Sulphur and Horticultural Oil in mid-November to control insects and diseases that overwinter in your trees.
We are now entering a brand new season, and it is so nice to have our lawns and gardens in shape for the coolest and wettest time of the year. The addition of winter colour is a pure bonus – one you will appreciate more and more as winter progresses.
Brian Minter is a master gardener who operates Minter Gardens in Chilliwack.