Preparing Your Lawn and Garden for Winter

fall yard

You know fall is here from the cool temperatures in the morning and all the bright colorful leaves on the trees; however, fall doesn't mean gardening is over for the year. Fall is the time to tend to your garden and put it to bed properly so it's ready for next spring. The work you do at this time of year will pay off when your garden comes up strong and healthy next spring. Follow this advice to make sure your garden is a thing of beauty next year.

Flower and Vegetable Gardens.

Begin by digging out your spent annual flowers and vegetables. Compost the healthy ones, but make sure you throw out any that have insect infestations or show signs of disease. Cut your perennial flowers back to ground level, then top-dress them with 1-inch of compost. For both appearance and so that the birds can find a quick meal during the winter, consider leaving any ornamental grasses or perennials with seed heads.

Dig out any tender summer bulbs like dahlias and store them in a dry area where the squirrels won't be able to reach them. If you're putting in spring-flowering bulbs like daffodils or tulips, plant them six weeks before you expect the ground to freeze.

Fall is also the best time to weed your gardens, particularly near the edges where you've been fertilizing the weeds all summer. Throw the weeds out in your trash. You don’t want to compost weeds, or you run the risk of getting their seeds into your compost. You would then be pulling them out again next year.

While you're working around the sides of your garden beds, take the time to edge them. A clean sharp edge not only makes your garden look better, but it also makes it easier to keep grass from migrating into the beds. Mulch the fallen leaves from your lawn by running your lawn mower over them. Use them as winter cover on your beds, or put the chopped-up leaves directly into your compost.

Fall is a good time to have your garden soil tested. Many garden centers can arrange to test your soil. Once you have the results, you can add slow-reacting soil amendments to the garden bed. The amendments will have all winter to work.

Trees and Shrubs

Keep watering your trees right until the ground freezes. Trees must store moisture to stay healthy during the long cold months. Since evergreens don't lose their leaves, they continue to transpire all winter; therefore, they need lots of water in the fall.

If you're thinking of transplanting or moving some trees or shrubs, fall is a good time to do it. Do the transplants at least a month before the ground freezes so that the roots have a chance to establish themselves in the new location. Make sure you give the transplants a nice home with lots of fresh topsoil or compost in the hole.

Fall is also a great time to plant new shrubs and trees from your garden center. Put tree guards around the trunks of any newly planted trees. Wire or plastic mesh will be fine. Just make sure you extend it above the snow line to guard against gnawing animals like mice or rabbits from making a meal of the tree bark.

Build some wooden teepees to go cover shrubs that rest beneath eaves or areas where snow tends to accumulate. The teepees prevent shrubs from bending and breaking under the weight of the snow.

Finally, don't forget to give your lawn a final cut. It should be about 2-inches high to reduce and prevent snow mold from growing on your lawn. Either spread some winter fertilizer, or top dress the entire lawn. Your gardens are now ready for winter. Better yet, they're ready for next spring!