Winter Is Coming: 6 Things You Have to Do to Prepare Your Garden for the Winter
With autumn at our door, activities in the garden are inevitably slowing down. Perennials are blushing with colors, while deciduous trees and shrubs are starting to drop their leaves. Annuals, on the other hand, are nearing the end of their natural life and wait for the nip of the first heavier frost. However, this doesn’t mean that after the peak of summer’s harvest, the garden door should remain shut until the spring planting rush. The amount of work that awaits you next spring depends on how well you have prepared the garden for the winter period. Here are some suggestions.
Clean up the garden
Before the ground becomes too hard, make sure you remove all weeds and debris. Apart from looking untidy, dry and rotting plants can provide a home to insects, disease and fungi. Insects that feed on dead plant matter may lay eggs on the plant stalks and leaves, so by removing their food, you prevent them from getting the high ground when the springtime comes. Lightly till the soil to expose any burrowing insects, such as Japanese beetle, whose grubs overwinter in the ground. Once your garden soil is exposed, add a layer of leaves, compost, manure, and, if need be, lime, to improve your soil quality.
Remove invasive weeds
Whether it was the bindweed that enshrouded your blackberry patch or the Himalayan blackberry that kept growing from your garden’s borders, now’s the time to bid them farewell. Dig the weeds out, pack them for the garbage or pile them on autumn burn piles. Most invasive weeds can survive under a pile of compost, so you better destroy them before they can’t get root or drop their seeds. Removing invasive species completely is the only way to break their cycle of sprouting all over every spring.
Burn waste for ash
Garden waste that can’t be composted or used in any other ways can still be burned to provide a valuable gardening product, plant ash. Burning is an excellent way of dealing with diseased plant matter and weeds. Unlike coal ash, wood ash contains potassium, which is a vital nutrient for crops. However, keep in mind that ash is alkaline, so use it in small amounts as an addition to the compost, especially if you compost a lot of acidic material like citrus peel. In addition, ash is a great growth supplement for fruits like apples, raspberries, and tomatoes.
Prepare perennials and vegetables for winter
First of all, start watering your perennials and flowering shrubs more in the autumn, to ease up their dormant period. Once the ground has frozen, cut them back to three inches and mulch them with a thick layer of straw. If you’re planning to put in a new flower bed next spring, cover the area with mulch or heavy plastic sheet to prevent unwanted growth when the weather gets warmer again.
By opting for a heated greenhouse, you can break the nature’s cycle and extend the greens season well throughout the winter. Of course, this can have a significant effect on your energy bill. However, there is a much more efficient solution, and that is going solar. One of most effective ways of heating a small garden greenhouse is by using solar energy, you can opt for one of these 5kW Skylight Energy solar systems that are highly recommendable for households. They will enable you to enjoy your favorite flowers and plants for a prolonged period of time and provide them with a sustainable and eco-friendly environment that will soon pay off its initial investment.
Just like mulching in summer, winter mulching has many benefits for trees and shrubs. Apart from reducing water loss, it protects the soil from erosion and eliminates weeds. Winter mulching, however, has an added benefit of protecting roots from freezing and thawing cycles. A thick layer of mulch stabilizes the soil temperature and acts as a buffer against strong frosts. At the same time, as it breaks down, it integrates fresh organic material into your garden soil.
Clean and sharpen gardening tools
Although experienced gardeners keep their tools clean and oiled throughout the year, it’s often difficult to do so when activity in the garden is high. In the autumn, however, there’s more time to rejuvenate your tools by giving them some care. Begin by washing them to remove caked earth and debris. Remove any rust sports using a wire brush or sandpaper. A basic mill file works great for sharpening hoes, shovels and spades, while for pruners and shears, you better use a simple whetstone. Rub the metal parts of your tools with motor oil, which seals the surfaces from oxygen and prevents rust.
Whichever climate you live in, there are always chores that are better done in the autumn than in spring. The suggestions listed here won’t only help you start the new planting season more easily, but also improve your garden and yields in the long run.
Robert Clayton is a blogger with a degree in engineering based in Sydney. His interests and passions include DIY, green technologies and home improvement. He also loves good food, music, dogs and enjoys spending time by the ocean. He’s a regular contributor for Smooth Decorator, An Australian Home improvement website.