Readying Midwestern Gardens For Winter

R. L. Rhodes
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Mulching.

Midwestern winters can be hard on an unprepared garden. Before you settle in for the season, use these tips to ensure that your garden stays safe and healthy until spring.

Mulching can be an essential practice for protecting beds from winter cold, but don’t overdo it. Mulch should cover the surrounding area, but typically you don’t want to mound the mulch against or even over plants. Excessive mulch can provide hiding places for plant eating wildlife, like mice and voles. Spread your mulch once the ground has turned cold.

If your garden is near any paths or surface features that require shoveling after heavy snows, use tall stakes or driveway reflectors to mark off the boundaries of your garden so you’ll know where to stop. That will help prevent stray shovel blades from accidentally damaging dormant plants hidden by the snow.

Now is also a good time to test your soil. Soil additives can take a while to permeate the ground, so applying the right additives now will give your garden the entire winter to find the right balance.

If your garden features any shrubs or trees, you can protect them from severe cold by allowing them to “harden off” now. Reduce your watering until fall has stripped the trees of their leaves. That will slow growth and allow the plants to develop a layer of defense from the impending weather. Finish off by giving them a thorough deep watering before the first big freeze to tide them over until spring. More tender shrubs and trees can be wrapped in burlap to protect them from dropping temperatures.

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