With winter around the corner, it only makes sense to start thinking about preparing your garden for winter.
Don’t laze out on your winter preparation in the garden, or you’ll be paying for it next spring! We’ve prepared a care list of helpful steps for you to get your garden winter ready, from pruning to protecting your plants against freeze-thaw fluctuations. Read on for everything you need to know about winterizing your Iowa garden.
Cut Back Perennials and Remove Annuals
Cutting back is perhaps the most crucial step on your winter garden list. Cut back some (not all) of your garden perennials, such as hostas, peonies, bulbs, and daylilies. Plants such as echinacea, hydrangeas, rudbeckia, sunflowers, and zinnias with edible seed heads can feed the birds, so save yourself the hassle of cutting them back and leave them standing to offer seasonal interest in your fall garden beds!
As for your annual plants, pull them out by their roots to remove them from your garden. Make sure to remove any rusty, powdery, and black spot-infested leaves from the ground so the spores do not survive the winter and infiltrate your plants the following season. If a plant or leaf appears diseased or buggy, do not add it to your compost.
Prune Dead Branches from Your Trees and Shrubs
Pruning is a method of removing diseased or dead wood from trees and shrubs during the fall season. When pruning dead wood, always do it at the node, where it meets a larger branch or stem. Pruning the entire branch is the best option if the branch is partially dead or diseased.
Winterize Your Lawn
Grass preparation is important to ensure the beauty of your garden the following season. We recommend maintaining your grass until the snow flies around at least three inches long; it is easier to establish a deeper root system when the grass is taller. Lawns with short grass are more susceptible to winter damage, and the height keeps the snow off the soil, which protects your grassroots. You can also overseed before the winter for a thicker, healthier lawn in spring and aerate to promote nutrient distribution. Add some fertilizer, and you’ll be set for success!
Protect Delicate Shrubs
We highly recommend protecting your roses and other more delicate shrubs from freeze-thaw cycles to ensure their survival throughout winter. Freezing and thawing change the soil dynamics, causing expansion and contraction that can push plant roots up and out of the soil during the winter. You can protect your roses and other garden flowers from the winter cold by wrapping them in burlap and adding a generous layer of mulch around the base of the plant. We also recommend spraying evergreens with an anti-transpirant spray like Bonide Wilt-Stop to prevent moisture loss and winter burn. Wilt Stop is most important for broadleaf evergreens like Boxwood, Azaleas and Rhododendrons.
Preparing your garden for spring means weeding thoroughly to avoid pulling hundreds of their offspring in just a few months. The best time to complete this step on your list is right before winter, so they don’t have a chance to spread rapidly by snow, animals, plowing, and wind. To target perennial seeds and root systems, consider applying a safe, pre-emergent herbicide before winter weeds sprout.
Prep Your Raised Garden Beds with Compost and Mulch
In October, when plants start dying, it is an excellent time to add compost to your raised beds. We tend to add compost in the spring, but it’s also crucial to add it in late autumn to let the soil absorb the nutrients over the winter. Before the ground freezes, add a couple of inches of compost or manure to your raised beds. You can also add more soil if you need to top up your raised bed, and add mulch to protect any perennials that will be hanging out in there until spring.
Are you searching for supplies needed to complete all the steps on your garden list to prepare for an Iowa winter? Visit Wallace’s Garden Center in Bettendorf for expert care tips and supplies!