Game Plan


Prepare those gardens for winter

By Amanda Thomas

It seemed as though we were just getting ready to plant our flowers and now summer has flown by, making it time to winterize our gardens. There are many important things to remember when preparing plants, trees, and the lawn for a treacherous Winnipeg winter. Let’s just say it’s time to get mulching!

Stake and tie up any young trees or shrubs that may break under the weight of wet snow or ice. Use soft ties around the bark of trees, as wire or twine can cut into the bark and cause serious damage. A good trick for making soft homemade ties is to cut old t-shirts into strips.

Wrap the stems of young and newly planted trees with the white plastic tree wraps or this year you could try to use some burlap material. This will help to prevent sun scalding on the bark and will also help to protect young plants from damage done by rabbits or other small creatures.

When the snow comes make sure to dump it away from shrubs and young trees. Dumping large amounts of snow on trees and shrubs can cause serious damage. In the spring the mounds of snow melt and gradually sink, pulling at branches and leaving salt behind.

However, remember that snow on top of a perennial bed can be a good insulating layer.

Mulch gardens if you didn’t get a chance to do so earlier in the year. When using leaves, do not apply a thickness of more than 10 centimetres – any deeper will smother bulbs and perennials that are trying to grow in the spring.

Once trees drop their leaves, check them for pests or diseases that may have been hidden by summer foliage. It is also a great time to examine the tree to determine if some spring pruning will be needed when the season arrives.

Repair summer’s damage. Now is a great time to repair a damaged lawn and do some re-seeding.

Don’t store the hose away just yet because you should continue to water the lawn – even in fall. Generally, lawns should get approximately an inch of water every 14 to 21 days. The ground should be moist as it heads toward winter, but not soggy, which could encourage mold.

Go easy on the pruning. Pruning is one of the most common gardening practices but it is actually sometimes unnecessary.  As a general rule, give your loppers and shears the autumn off. Why? Pruning promotes growth, and you don’t want to encourage growth when plants are preparing to go dormant for winter. There are some exceptions, so call your local greenhouse or lawn service if you have doubts about a particular plant or tree.

1Take a gamble and throw seeds of hardy annuals where you would want them to bloom next year, sometimes they’ll bloom automatically come spring! Poppies, Cleome and Cosmos will frequently take root from seeds sown in autumn and conditioned under the winter snow.

1Fall is the perfect time, however, to cut dead wood off trees so that insects have no place to nest over the winter.

1Don’t completely write off the vegetable garden just yet either. There are some great vegetables that take 30 days or less to harvest and that aren’t hugely affected by a light frost, so continue to tend to spinach, Swiss chards, and carrots well into the fall months.

1Also if you haven’t changed your soil in your vegetable garden in the last few seasons, now is the time to do so. Till out some of the old hard soil and add fresh soil complete with manure and you’ll be ready for the spring veggie season.

1There’s no benefit to keeping vegetables roots and plants in the soil once the cold weather has officially hit so be sure to remove all vegetables from your garden in preparation to start fresh next year.

1Many potted or hanging plants can be moved inside to a sunny window sill to be enjoyed for the colder months too. Ask your local gardener or green thumb which plants can live happily both indoors (during winter) and outdoors.

1As you wind down the garden season, make notes on what worked and what didn’t work, to help you plan for a successful and beautiful garden next year. You are more likely to remember key points now rather than next April or May.

1Also, in this tech savvy day and age, take a picture of your garden before it gets covered, then when you go to plant in spring you’ll know what grows where and things you’d like to do differently.

Trees, vegetables and perennial gardens all need specific fall and winter care so make sure to consult your local greenhouse for a more detailed list or for plant by plant instructions. When it comes to lawn care, landscapers always know best. May this winter be mild, both for the gardens sake and ours!