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Clean, Cut, Plant: Preparing Your Garden for Winter

It may be hard to believe it, but summer is coming to an end, and fall is just around the corner. When it comes to your yard, start now to begin start preparing it for next year.

While beautiful blooming gardens are synonymous with the spring and summer, experts will tell you that to maintain a luscious-looking garden, the work continues well into the fall.

When it comes to Canadian winters, the winter you experience depends on where you live. Our winters affect each region very differently. Whether you are preparing your yard for a harsh prairie winter or preparing it for a mild BC winter, there is still plenty of work to do come autumn.

Garden in autumn with vegetables growing in raised beds. It is recommended that you clean out the vegetable beds in the fall.

In fact, according to award-winning horticulturalist and author Peter Prakke, several perennials, shrubs, and trees will be flowering again into the fall this year.

“The longer we have no frost,[and] just a little rainfall, we can expect continuing blooms on annuals and many perennials,” said Prakke.

Prakke does warn, however, that spring-flowering trees should not be flowering again because that could be a sign of a plant in stress. Note: some species are created to flower twice, like certain types of lilac bushes.

Regardless of whether or not your summer garden blooms into the fall, gardeners looking to have a blossoming spring next year still have their work cut out for them this year.

Below, Prakke shares some tips and insights on what to do in your garden this fall.

Halfway through the fall, wrap the tree trunks of younger trees with commercial tree wrap paper or burlap to protect from sun damage.

Preparing for winter

Preparing your garden to survive the upcoming winter requires a good amount of cleaning up and cutting out during the fall. Since perennials are expected to bloom again next year, careful preparation is essential for the upcoming winter. Freezing and thawing of the soil or low temperatures may kill perennials.

Prakke recommends cleaning out the old foliage of other plants and mulch flower beds that contain perennials, but only after the ground has started to freeze. Cedar or pine mulch, weed-free straw, wood shavings or dry sawdust provide proper protection, said Prakke. And, according to Prakke, snow cover is “still the best protection.”

Annuals, on the other hand, need to be pulled out after the first or second frost and then chopped up before throwing them in the compost.

Annuals, on the other hand, need to be pulled out after the first or second frost and then chopped up before throwing them in the compost.

“If you leave dead plants around your garden [they] can be a good hiding place for insects, and diseased plants (that) might harm your garden next year,” stated Prakke.

If you’ve grown a vegetable garden, it should be cleaned up as soon as the crops are harvested.

“If you have soil with high clay content, spread coarse sand and composted manure on your vegetable garden now and roto-till this all together,” added Prakke.

Fruit trees need to be protected from rodent damage so you may be required to use rodent repel or tree guards. Trees and shrubs should be watered very well, explained Prakke. “Because they continue to lose moisture through their foliage.”

Halfway through the fall, wrap the tree trunks of younger trees with commercial tree wrap paper or burlap to protect from sun damage.

Certain perennials are more susceptible to the winter weather and require special care.

Saving Perennials

Certain perennials are more susceptible to the winter weather and require special care.

Roses, for example, fall into this category. These flowers can be killed or injured during the winter through a direct injury to the tops or roots from extreme cold weather; root injury from drying out; damage from animals; snow or ice breakage; or rapid changes of temperature caused by warming of the stems and then freezing.

To prevent injury to these flowers, Prakke recommends using mound topsoil around each rose bush after the first frost. He also warns against using maple, willow or other popular leaves around the bushes because they mat down when wet. Once the ground is frozen, evergreen boughs will help to provide extra protection.

Other flowers that require care include lilies and peonies. For these flowers, it is suggested to cut them down to approximately 15 cm above ground level.

Other flowers that require care include lilies and peonies. For these flowers, it is suggested to cut them down to approximately 15 cm above ground level.

Cuttings

Fall, especially before the first frost, is an excellent time to harvest cuttings from flowers to grow indoors or to save for the next year.

August or early September is the best time to take cuttings from geraniums, for example. For geranium cuttings, it’s recommended that you select from a solid, healthy growth that is at ten centimetres long. Make a straight cut below a node with a sharp garden knife and then snip the leaves, leaving only the bud and one developed leaf. You can choose to soak the cutting for five minutes in soap resolution to ward off pests. Dip the cutting in root stimulator and then plant it in a four-inch pot filled with a soilless mix. Constant watering and care should result in developed roots within three weeks.

You can take cuttings and similarly regrow other plant species.

Flowers you can choose to plant in the fall include: Alliums, Tulips, Chionodoxa, Narcissus, Muscari, Daffodil, and Crocus.

Planting For Next Spring

The most breathtaking gardens begin growing months before the first spring bloom. During the fall, many gardeners plant bulbs for the next year. Prakke recommends choosing a location to plant the bulbs that has good drainage and then work close to one pound of bonemeal per dozen bulbs into the area. Then plant the bulbs at the proper depth according to the label and then fill with original soil and water thoroughly.

Flowers you can choose to plant in the fall include: Alliums, Tulips, Chionodoxa, Narcissus, Muscari, Daffodil, and Crocus.

Tips to Plant Fall Bulbs

 

Thanks to Prakke’s expert advice, you can now make the most of this fall in your garden to get a jumpstart on next year’s garden and save your favourite perennials from the Canadian winter.

“Even if the weather is nice [enough] to go outside or not, there are a lot of things that should be done. Because the goal is to get ready for the winter and have everything in the best possible shape for next spring,” said Prakke.

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Peter Prakke

Peter Prakke is a horticultural consultant in Ancaster, Ontario. After emigrating from the Netherlands to Canada, Peter furthered his knowledge as a horticulturist to share his expertise in the horticultural industry. In 2014, Peter presented as a guest speaker at the Canadian Urban Forest Conference – London, Ontario his initiative on “A Plan for Cities to Combat Pollen Allergies and Asthma.” For six years, he conducted evening gardening classes, at Mohawk College, Hamilton, ranging from beginner to specific seasonal gardening topics. Peter is the recipient of the Garden Communicator Award for Canada from Landscape Ontario, Canada’s largest Horticultural Trade Association. For many years, he was a volunteer at McMaster University, Hamilton, working with cancer patients and challenged children through horticultural therapy. To honour our Canadian soldiers, Peter originated the Bravery Park™. The parks with allergy-friendly maple trees are a tribute to soldiers for their courage, bravery, and dedication to freedom. To improve schoolyards for children with allergies and asthma, Peter initiated the Allergy Friendly Schoolyard© for North America and Europe. In 2015, Peter submitted a Private Members Bill to the Ontario Government, called the Allergy Friendly Schoolyard Act, 2015. The goal is for no more male clonal, pollen producing – native or non-native, asthma causing shrubs and trees in the schoolyards in Ontario. Peter has served as board director of the non-profit group SAFE gardening, which offers a healthy alternative to the all-too-common highly allergenic landscapes. He is presently researching allergenic plants, shrubs and trees in ongoing collaboration with Thomas Ogren, American lecturer and author of the Allergy-Fighting Garden, and the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale OPALS®.

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