Winter Gardening Wonderland

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Winter Gardening Wonderland

by Brandi McFadden

What, you may ask, could there possibly be to do in the cold and generally freezing days of winter? Well, your gardener may answer, there are many, many, wonderful and essential winter tasks to complete before spring…

Lets talk pruning. Pruning is a vital task for everything from tall trees to small perennials:

  • Opening tree and shrub canopies promotes good air flow which improves overall plant health
  • Removing crossing branches keeps limbs from rubbing and creating wounds which leads to disease
  • Pruning suckers and thinning limbs improves the look of the plants and promotes new growth
  • Light pruning keeps your plants ‘in bounds’ and from overtaking neighboring plants
  • Cutting back perennials removes the previous seasons’ dead material and primes the plant for spring

Caution! Before you take up the loppers and chainsaw to start cutting, take note of the details. Knowing about the plant in question is key:

  • Growth characteristics – Should I prune selectively or cut back the whole plant to the ground?
  • Bloom time – Are blooms set in winter for an early spring show?
  • Tolerance to pruning – Should you prune lightly or cut the whole plant back a third? A quarter?
  • Timing – Does pruning now or later promote flowering or prevent plants from flopping?

Knowing details like this mean the difference between a garden that is primmed for spring, or a garden that takes a few seasons to recover from your “helpfulness”.

Mulch makes the garden world go round. Mulch – applied correctly – can improve the garden’s look, promote healthy plants, and reduce maintenance all year long. A few keys to mulch:

  • Stop Mulch Volcanos Now! Do not pile mulch around trunks of trees and shrubs
  • Deep mulch suppresses growth of most perennials or bulbs, use discretion in application
  • Mulch helps insulate and protect roots against harsh winter days
  • Mulch helps with root protection and water retention on hot dry summer days

Some other key activities during winter include:

  • Cleaning up the last of the fall leaves
  • Fertilizing trees and large shrubs to encourage winter root growth
  • Planting bulbs in early winter for a spring show
  • Improving edges on current plant beds
  • Adding new plant beds – edging, mulching, and planting
  • Planting trees and shrubs
  • Improving drainage of garden beds/lawn in preparation for spring rains
  • Making plans for spring annuals
  • Creating new garden paths with stones, mulch, or pine straw
  • Making plans to convert that old field into a spring meadow

As you can see, winter is prime time for many gardening tasks that will help you get a jump on enjoying the spring and summer plants. In fact, gardening in winter is essential to enjoying the spring blooms and long term health of your garden.

So if you were thinking winter was a great time for lounging by the fire with a good book, think again. Put on the layers, get out the heavy boots, take up those loppers and wheelbarrow – go forth to garden in your winter wonderland!


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