You’ve given your garden tender loving care during the spring, summer and fall. There’s no reason to stop now! There’s plenty of winter gardening to do, from prepping your perennials for spring to tending to your hardy winter vegetables. Here are some cold weather gardening tips to keep you busy outside all winter long.
Cut back your perennials
If you haven’t done so already, remove those old brown stems and leaves. Removing the debris from last season will give your garden a fresh winter look. One exception? Ornamental grasses. Even though they’re brown, they can look beautiful during the winter. Wait until spring is just about here to cut those back to make way for new growth. After you’ve removed last year’s stems and leaves, put down a cozy bed of mulch to insulate your root balls and shrubs, especially the perennials you just cut back.
Protect your winter vegetables
If you’ve planted a hardy winter vegetable garden and you don’t have a greenhouse, make sure to keep those crops safe from Old Man Winter’s wind, cold and rain.
- Mulch. Blanket a thick layer (2 or 3 inches) of mulch, like straw, leaves or pine needles, around your plants to keep those roots warm and prevent evaporation.
- Cloche. These are transparent coverings for individual plants. You can buy bell-shaped glass cloches, or just use a plastic milk jug cut in half.
- Cold frame. It’s a box with a clear top that can be opened and no bottom that you place around your plants. Old windows work perfectly for this. Prop it open on warm days.
- Hoop tunnel. Arc metal conduit or PVC hoops over your plants and cover it with translucent plastic or greenhouse fabric, creating a tunnel over your rows. On warm days, remove the covering and let the sun shine in.
Check the health of your shrubs
This winter has been especially harsh in many regions of the country. Do your evergreens show any severe freeze burn damage? If so, don’t assume the worst. The damage might be confined to the leaves and not the stems. Here’s how to tell: Make a small scratch in the bark. Is the cambium layer underneath still green? If it is, the branch is alive. If it’s yellow or brown, that branch is dead. Continue scraping, going lower until you come to a place where healthy, green cambium is showing. Prune back your branch to that area. But if more than half of your plant’s main branches are dead, you should remove it and plant anew.
Test and till your soil
Do you know your soil’s pH factor? If you got less-than-stellar results last year, your pH could be the culprit. Get a test kit, send a sample to your local ag extension office and find out. Once you know what you might be lacking, you can work those nutrients into the soil well before planting season … if you’re not dealing with a deep-freeze situation as much of the country is this year.
Prune your roses
Just before spring is the time to prune your temperamental pride and joy. A good rule of thumb is to prune right when the buds begin swelling.
Brew a cup of tea, sit in front of the fire and dream about your annuals, perennials and vegetables. Plan what you’d like your gardens to look like, get creative and above all, think spring!
At Homestead Gardens, we have everything you need to help you tend to your winter garden and prep for spring.