Outdoor plants have begun preparing for winter. When the forecast calls for daily temperatures to average in the mid-30s and 40s, it is time to winterize the garden.
Before covering everything, though, take a final fall picture of the garden for your journal. It will give you something to work on during the gray days of winter.
In established gardens, divide any overcrowded bulbs, rhizomes, and other root plants. Daffodils, daylilies, irises, and tulips can get pretty crowded in just a couple of years. Thin out the thickest growth areas, check the roots for disease and insects, and plant the bulbs around the garden or share some with friends.
Thick patches of perennials like daisies, black-eyed Susans, hostas, and sedum may be divided, too. Use a shovel with a sharp blade to separate the outer edges of the plants from the overgrowth and remove the latter. This will give the plants some room to grow for next year.
After giving extra space to the hardy perennials, turn your attention to the annuals. The freezing temps have caused them to die back by now, so they will be easy to spot. Remove any weeds and toss them on the compost pile.
Pull any annuals out of ceramic containers and fill the containers with evergreen branches for a winter look. Remove any stakes that once supported tomatoes and other tall plants and store the stakes until next spring. Empty the birdbath and other decorative statuary pieces and bring them inside for winter.
Damaged and diseased limbs may be nipped from trees and shrubs, but don't prune very much until these plants have gone completely dormant. January and February are good months for tree pruning.
The wind can give broadleaf evergreen plants like azaleas and rhododendrons chapped leaves. The wind zaps the moisture from the leaves and causes their edges to look burned in the spring. Protect the leaves by wrapping each bush or line of bushes with burlap supported by stakes. Waxy sprays also are available, but they have to be reapplied in the dead of winter.
Protect roots and stems of roses with a bag of compost. Dump a three-inch layer around the base of each rose and it will keep the frozen roots frozen.
After the garden is frozen, add a three-inch layer of mulch. The trees will benefit from this, too.
Before putting away the hose for winter, give the plants a good drink to supply them with moisture before the ground freezes.
And don't clean your tools yet. Next week, I'll tell you what to trim back and what needs to be left alone.