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Published: Wednesday, 11/14/2012

Do’s and don’ts for winter prep

BY KELLY HEIDBREDER
GET GROWING

With winter on its way, many gardeners drain the hoses, pack away the tomato cages, and tuck the shovels back in the corner of the garage. We’ve had a few beautiful windows of opportunity to get the rest of the garden put away for the winter, with temperatures bouncing around from the low 40s up into the high 60s.

Composting

Take a hint from the farmers around you. They are busy preparing their fields for the spring. You can do the same thing. Get the debris chopped up in the veggie patch and till it into the garden. This will give you a head start on a couple of things for next spring. Your soil will be easier to till because you have already started the process this fall and it will have a boost of gourmet food, since you let the leftovers decompose in the soil to create nutritious compost over the winter.

If you don’t have anything left in your vegetable patch to till, use the leaves and other green debris from your yard. You can also toss a few bags of composted manure into your vegetable garden to give your plants an extra boost for next season. Spread these around the vegetable patch, then use your rototiller to mix it all up for the winter.

Think of it as a long flat bag of compost. You may have created other bags of homemade compost from your grass clippings and leaves around the yard. Those bags need to be rolled around a few times before they break down enough to become compost. So will the leftovers in your vegetable patch.

What stays

We are whipping around with the weed trimmer and pruners, cutting things back for the winter, but there are some things that can stay. Those long, tall ornamental grasses are beautiful in the winter and can be cut back in the spring. Hellebores like Christmas rose, Lenten rose and Bearsfoot hellebores will be beautiful bursts of color in the winter months.

Ground covers like pachysandra and ivy will stick around through the cold temperatures. Other plants like Jack-in-the-pulpit are providing a big supply of berries for the birds. Other perennials like Russian sage, astilbe, yarrow and sedum can also be great late fall show offs in your landscape.

Since we have had a few mornings zapped with frost, you have seen some of your annuals and perennials get mushy and turn black. That is their way of going dormant. They need to go, so just cut off the brown and black parts and toss them on the compost pile. As you go through each flower bed around your landscape, prune out any damaged parts or diseased branches. It is a good idea to keep an alcohol swab or two with you to clean the pruners between cuts just to be sure you aren’t spreading disease from one plant to another.

High winds have helped us do some pruning on the high trees above. I know it really helped get rid of the last of my nuts and leaves in the trees around my yard. The chipmunks and squirrels have been having a huge party tucking all of them away for the winter. Pick up all of the sticks around your yard and save some of the bigger ones off to the side. These could be used as stakes around large perennials if you need to protect them from wind damage and wrap them with burlap before winter.

Contact Kelly Heidbreder at getgrowing@gmail.com.



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