Updated: Apr 10, 2020
One of our customers’ just bought a new house with a large backyard garden and they recently asked us “do you have any tips for winterizing gardens in the fall?” This is a common question we get from homeowners we work with. The best time to start winterizing your lawn and garden is about two or three weeks into the fall season. Here is a guide that we compiled to help you winterize your garden.
1. Clean Your Lawn and Garden
Your lawn will begin to go dormant when the cool fall weather arrives. For your last lawn cutting of the year, we recommend lowering your mower blades to 2.5 inches and leave the grass clippings on the lawn. The clippings will provide about 25% of the nitrogen that your grass will need over the winter. It’s important to remember that cutting your lawn stresses the grass, and cutting too much at once can burn out your grass. If your lawn is extremely long going into fall, gradually lower your mower blades each cut until you get to your 2.5 inch goal.
After your last cut, there are some more steps you can take to prepare for that luscious green lawn your neighbours could only dream of having. You should rake off all the leaves, dethatch your lawn to remove dead grass at the surface, and aerate to allow grass roots to breathe and absorb water and nutrients. Without removing the leaves on your lawn before winter, you could be giving yourself and your lawn extra work to do in the spring. Leaves left on the lawn over winter could smother your grass and inhibit growth. Additionally, snow mold could infect the leaves left on your lawn, leaving greyish-pink dead patches on your lawn by Spring.
Similar to your lawn, you will need to remove any excess organic matter from your garden before winter. Clean out any fallen leaves, weeds, and dead plants. This is easily accomplished with a backpack or handheld blower, but if you choose to use those more powerful tools, be extra careful not to blow any mulch out of your garden! And one more note about removing dead plants - do NOT put them in your compost. They may have diseases or pathogenic microorganisms that could infect your compost and in turn, the rest of your garden.
2. Mulch Your Garden
Mulch the base of your perennials, evergreens, conifers and tender shrubs with straw, compost or bark to prevent the ground from freezing. Mulching in the fall will create an insulative barrier around the base of your plants, keeping the autumn soil warmer for longer, and protects plants from the huge temperature variations in winter. Mulching will also help conserve whatever water is in the soil, so hopefully, you’ve been keeping your garden beds watered right up until the first frost.
3. Water and Fertilize Your Plants and Lawn
It may seem silly to worry about watering plants in the fall when they’re going dormant, but the roots always need to stay hydrated. We also recommend to fertilize your lawn and garden in the fall to add nutrients that your plants and turf will need to flourish in the spring.
Bio-fertilizers such as Nurture Growth also have the ability to amend soil and add nutrients to it so an autumn application is encouraged.
4. Prepare and Protect Trees, Shrubs and Rose-Bushes for the Winter
Certain types of vegetation, like trees, shrubs, and rose bushes, need extra care to survive the dry winter winds and winter sun. Wrapping these plants can prevent the dry winds from wicking away their moisture content, or even inhibit snow from landing on the plant and bending limbs or flowers.
We recommend using burlap, canvas, or old bedsheets to wrap the plants. Make sure that you stake around the plant and wrap the material around the stakes, not directly on the plant.
5. Preserve Tender Bulbs and Roots
Tender bulbs such as begonia, dahlia, canna, caladium, freesia, and gladiola should be gently removed from the garden and stored in a cool, dry space over the winter to be replanted next season. Daffodils, crocus, tulip, and hyacinth are good examples of hardy bulbs that will tolerate a hard frost.
6. Winterizing your Watering Equipment
To prevent damaging your garden hose, drain the water and detach it from the water tap
and remove any water left in it. If you have an underground sprinkler system, use an air compressor to blow out the water and turn off the irrigation system.
If you shut down your pond for the winter, remember to remove the pump and store it indoors to extend its life. Drain the water from the plumbing to prevent freezing and expanding of the pipes which can potentially cause cracks.
7. Clean and Store your Garden Tools
To extend the life of your tools, clean and dry them, remove any rust, sharpen, and sanitize. Lastly, remember to store your tools in a warm, dry place so you can use it next season without any surprise repairs. Indoor storage is preferable but a well insulated shed can work as well.
And most importantly,
8. Don't forget about the worms! Wrap your compost bin
To create great compost, it is essential to keep the worms happy. Wrapping your compost bin with old carpet or bubble wrap will create an insulation layer that can keep your compost bin warm enough for the worms to stay productive over the winter.
We also recommend that you add Nurture Growth mixture to your compost bin to increase the microbial activities in the bin and speed up the decomposition.
Written by Prashant Teki