Ask Flora - Winterizing
by Sage & Snow Garden Club
September 23, 2013
Dear Flora, We have had our first frosts and my garden looks very sad. Can you give me some hints on what I can do to cheer myself up?
Signed: Sadie Sad
Fall is a great time to clean up the garden and it is an important activity to do well. Firstly if there are any seed heads on flowers or herbs that you liked then collect them, dry, label and store in your fridge. Any infected material should be placed in the trash and the rest put onto your compost heap. Collect some attractive fall foliage and berries and place these in your garden pots – place the pots close to your front door as a cheerful welcome to all over the months ahead.
Dear Flora, Should I cut back my perennials before winter?
Signed: Justin Case
There are two schools of thought on that subject. First you can cut back perennials after the foliage dies, usually after the first hard frost. Second you can leave the foliage and cut it back in early spring. You always want to cut back any diseased or bug infested foliage and toss it in the trash. If you cut back the foliage in the fall, it is a good idea to mulch your perennials after you cut them back to provide insulation. If you leave the foliage the birds can enjoy the seed heads throughout the winter and the foliage provides insulation. No matter what you do remember to water your perennials when we have a dry period and the temperature is above 40 degrees.
Dear Flora, When and how should I plant my garlic?
Signed: Eddie Bull
Dear Mr. EB,
You should plant your garlic in the fall, 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes. Just before planting break apart the bulbs by hand and plant individual cloves 4-5 inches deep 5-6 inches apart. After planting, mulch the rows with 3-4 inches of mulch, which can be straw, leaves, or compost. Remember to water your garlic and water during dry periods when the temperature is above 40 degrees.
Dear Flora, When should I plant my tulips, daffodils and other spring blooming bulbs?
Signed: Earl E. Bird
Dear Mr. EEB,
You should plant your spring blooming bulbs about 6 weeks before the ground freezes. This is usually about the time of the first frosts, when nighttime temperatures average 40-50 degrees.
Dear Flora, Can I add horse manure to my garden now?
Signed: Horsey Girl
Fall is the best time to add manure to your garden. It will help protect your perennials and as it breaks down will be great mulch for roses, delphiniums and peonies. Also add manure or compost to your vegetable gardenso that you can begin planting again as soon as it warms up.
Dear Flora, I have planted some new evergreens this year and wonder what I should do to help them through the winter.
Signed: Feeling Chilly
Young evergreens will repay you if you protect them especially during their first winter. Purchase hessian wrap from hardware stores and wrap firmly around the tree and then tie to hold in place. It is also recommended that you feed your evergreens in the fall with a fertilizer spike – follow directions on the packaging as to how many to use. Hammer spikes in around the drip line (or as far out as the branches go).
Dear Flora, What should I use to feed the birds in the fall?
Signed: Bird Watcher
Most, if not all of the hummingbirds will have migrated south now. Take down these feeders, make sure that they are washed and dried before storing for next summer. Hardware stores offer a variety of feeders for different types of seed. Choose the smallest feedholes for nyger (thistle) seed to attract goldfinches. Sunflower seeds are a favorite of grey crested rosy finches, which visit during the cold winter months.
Dear Flora, What it the recommended procedure to clear out my watering system?
Signed: Rebecca Rainey
If you use hoses in your garden, make sure that you disconnect these from the faucet before it freezes. Failure to do this could result in flood damage in your home on a warm winter day. Automatic watering systems will require a high-pressure air blow through to ensure that there is no water left in the lines. If you are unable to do this then call a local landscaper.
Dear Flora, I have heard that I should clean off my garden tools – why is this important?
Keeping tools clean is a good gardening practice. It rids tools of any potential spread of disease and is a very welcome sight next spring when you look into your garden shed and find all your tools clean and ready for work. Use warm water with light detergent to scrub tools clean of dirt, wipe with sanitizing cloth (Lysol) and then wipe with an oily rag. Another gardener’s favorite is to fill a bucket with sand, pour in some used oil (any oil will do) and then move your tools through the oily sand to get rid of garden dirt.
Dear Flora, My lawn is very patchy; can you give me some recommendations on what I can do to improve it before next summer?
Signed: Julie Green
If you live in an area where the soil is heavy then the lawn may need aerating. You can rent an aerator from the local rental store or hire a local landscaper to do it for you. If your grass is sparse in places, then you will need to add some seed. Before seeding make sure that you create a growing medium by added a compost/soil mixture, rake well and then add your chosen grass mix. Fall is also a great time to plant wildflower seeds, as many of them need to freeze before germinating.
Dear Flora, How can I get involved with other gardeners in the region to share ideas and learn?
Signed, Gnu Gardiner
One way is to attend a Sage & Snow Garden Club meeting. We meet from 5:00 p.m.to 7:00 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month at the Sublette County Weed & Pest Office at 12 South Bench Road, Pinedale. The educational topic for October is "Preserving Food." To find out more about the Garden Club & read all Ask Flora articles, visit our website at www.sageandsnow.org. You can also call the club president Jeanne (307-367-4211).