As temperatures continue to drop, it's important to make sure you put your garden to bed for the winter. Here’s how!
As fall marches in and the temperatures continue their steady drop, it’s an ideal time to start thinking about how to winterize your garden for the season ahead. While it may be easier to assume that nature has a way of working itself out, there is plenty you can do to help your trees, shrubs, and perennials stay comfortable throughout the winter and come back brighter than ever next spring. Your plants will especially appreciate it if they are newly planted or transplanted and still in the process of establishing roots. Here are five easy steps you can take to winterize your garden.
A great first step to winterizing your garden is pruning away any dead limbs on trees, as they may come down on their own in a winter storm and end up somewhere less than desirable. Avoid pruning shrubs that bloom on old wood such as some hydrangea and lilac varieties, though, as they develop their spring buds in late summer/early fall, so by pruning them in late fall or early winter; you risk cutting off potential blooms. It’s also a good idea to avoid deadheading perennials like coneflowers and black-eyed Susan’s as their seed heads are an excellent food resource for birds throughout the winter months.
2. Prepare & Protect Your Roses
Iowa winters can be harsh, so don’t forget about your roses when you begin to winterize your garden! The idea is to keep them at a consistent temperature throughout the season as exposure to rapid temperature changes can damage unprotected roses. One of the best ways to protect roses through the winter is by adding an extra layer of soil or mulch around the base of the plant. First, remove any diseased plant debris and fallen leaves, go ahead and cut the canes to approximately 2 feet high (if you don’t want to cut the canes, then tie them together lightly to help prevent wind damage). For additional protection, you can form a chicken wire cage around your roses and fill it with straw, leaves, and compost to help tuck them in nice and comfy for the winter. We also have shrub covers and rose collars in store; they make life much easier!
3. Continue Watering Less Frequently, But Regularly Until Frost Hits
While your plants won’t need as much water in the fall as they do in the summer, don’t stop watering your garden completely until the ground freezes—your plants will appreciate it come winter! Perennials, flowering shrubs, and trees will bounce back much brighter in the springtime if they have been adequately watered in the fall.
4. Apply Fresh Compost & Mulch
This may not seem like a typical task when you think about winterizing your garden, but it really helps! Many people only apply compost in the spring ahead of planting, but by applying a fresh layer in the fall, you allow that compost to leach all of those wonderful nutrients down into the soil throughout the winter and early spring season. Fall mulching is also highly recommended! Applying mulch to your garden beds and around the base of any perennials, shrubs, or trees will help them retain moisture throughout the winter, suppress weeds come spring time, help prevent soil erosion, and most importantly offer a layer of protection from the winter elements.
5. Protect Newly-Planted Trees & ShrubsOlder more established shrubs and trees may be able to withstand frigid winter temperatures, but you definitely do not want to take a chance on anything that has been newly planted or transplanted. In addition to adding about a 2 to 4-inch layer of mulch around the base of your trees or shrubs, you can also cover some of your more tender plants (i.e. Arborvitae, Boxwoods, Azaleas) with a loose material like burlap, as this will help protect them from harsher freeze/thaw cycles we often get in Iowa. We also have in store, and recommend:
- Tree wrap to insulate any open wounds or young bark from cracking during the freeze/thaw cycle.
- ‘Wilt Stop’ spray for all your evergreens to keep them coated and protected from snow, ice, and temperature extremes.
- Tree guards to keep those darling deer and rabbits away from gnawing at young bark or stripping wood off young tree stems.
Need to pick up supplies before you start winterizing your Bettendorf garden? Check out Wallace’s Garden Center to see what we have in stock and get some more great winterizing tips from our in-store experts.