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Can You Winterize a Garden?

How do you handle gardening in colder climates? Do you restrict yourself to the toughest cold-hardy perennials? Or do you plant all annuals and just dig up your entire garden at the end of every fall? In fact, you can have a garden that survives the winter snows if you put in the work and plan carefully. Here’s what you need to do.

Bring sensitive plants in

In general, plants that grow from bulbs or tubers can’t overwinter. It doesn’t matter whether they’re marked as perennials; they can’t take a hard frost. Dig them up, pot them and do some research to find the best place to put each plant over the winter. Most of them will prefer a cool, dark place such as an attic or a basement. You can also try overwintering your favorite annuals while you’re at it, but be prepared for heartbreak.

Lay down fresh mulch

A thick layer of mulch around shrubs, young trees and rosebushes will keep the soil around their roots at a constant temperature. That means that if there’s a brief warm spell in the middle of February, as sometimes happens, your plants won’t try to put out new leaves that will shrivel away in the next frost. Mulch also looks nice and prevents weeds from growing in your beds. Speaking of which …

Weed thoroughly

While you’re digging up unwanted annuals, make sure to get rid of any weeds in your annual beds. The goal is to make your garden beds inhospitable to the bugs that want to lay eggs in your dead plants during the fall so that you won’t have a new crop of larvae come spring.

Water thoroughly

Before you turn off your hoses for the winter, give everything a last, thorough soaking to encourage growth. Aim to do this a week or two before the first hard frost. This is an especially important task if you planted bulbs in the fall.

Cover everything up

Young trees, shrubs and rosebushes should be covered with flannel, burlap or specialized frost barrier cloth to protect them from snow and wind. Pay extra attention to the base of the trunk, where the bark is often attacked by rodents over the winter. Wrap evergreen shrubs like arborvitae in twine, bringing the branches in toward the trunk so that snow does not accumulate on the leaves, causing broken branches. Garden nurseries will have a range of overwintering products, including cloches meant to cover entire beds. Conversely, if you’re really serious about extending your growing season, you may wind up buying a greenhouse where you can leave plants over the winter.

Winterizing your garden may seem like a lot of work, but when done properly, it means your garden will look its best when spring rolls around. A good gardening center will help you choose the right plans and the right plant treatment for your area.

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