When it comes to protecting your garden during the frosty winter months, it is important to remember the three Cs: clear, clean, and cover says Lisa, the manager at Wholesale Nursery Co, a leading grower of quality garden plants, perennials ferns and more.
Clear, Clean, and Cover
Whether you are preparing perennials, bulbs, or vegetables for their winter dormancy, the first step towards protecting your leafy investment is to clear away all the dead vegetation, rotten fruit, and blackened stems from your flowers and vegetables. By eliminating excess dead plant material, you reduce the likelihood of your plants falling prey to insect eggs and disease pathogens during their winter nap.
Once your plant beds are cleared and cleaned, it is equally important that you sufficiently cover them for the chilly months to come. Cover them by spreading new mulch in the fall, creating a thick winter layer to protect your plants and soil throughout the cold season. Remember you are not trying to smother your plants in a warm impenetrable layer. Rather, the goal is to keep the temperature of the soil even year-round.
To winterize perennials, cut down their dry stems to soil level to remove pest eggs and any potential disease spores that may remain. Compost the dead plant debris to make an excellent organic soil conditioner that will work throughout the winter to kill fledgling weeds and disease pathogens. Keep rodents away from your precious soil by waiting until the ground freezes before you add your layer of soil conditioner. To maximize temperature moderation, spread your mulch in layers about six inches thick.
Bulbs & Fern Plants
Considering the delicate nature of bulbs, it is wise to remove the majority of them and store them for safekeeping, as they may not survive the harsh winter freezes. An easy way to do protect your bulbs is to take a few weeks to dry the bulbs out on newspaper, then store them in a container covered with sand or sawdust. It might be a good idea to add an extra layer of mulch to the hardier bulbs left in the ground right before a hard freeze is predicted to occur.
Similar to perennials and bulbs, the first step for protecting your vegetables is to clean up plant debris from all harvested beds. After grooming the beds, freshen them up by adding more organic matter in the form of fertilizer or compost. As intimidating as it might seem, it is possible to maintain a healthy garden even during the snows and freezes of the winter months.
A Word of Warning
Make sure when removing plant debris that you only add healthy vegetation to your compost pile–if you add plant matter that is diseased with mold, mildew, or blight, your compost pile will not get hot enough to kill off the fungus, and you run the risk of spreading that disease to the rest of your compost pile, which can be detrimental to the health of your plants the following season.