Readying Northern Gardens For Winter

R. L. Rhodes
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Planting bulbs.

Snow and ice may make gardening impractical during Northern winters, but the work you do now can help preserve your garden for the spring thaw.

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.

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 you’ve planted bulbs in the Spring, there are many types that cannot overwinter, and need to be dug up and stored in a dry, cool environment until the following Spring,” says Crystal, our Muddy Boots reporter in Queensbury, NY. “Of course, you’ll also want to plant those Fall bulbs ensuring that your gardens will be beautiful in the Spring.” Talk to the Home Depot Associates at your local garden center for advice on which bulbs to plant and which to store through the winter months.

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.

“You can also build wooden A-frames to protect larger shrubbery,” Crystal suggests. “This is especially necessary if the pitch of your roof allows for snow to melt and land directly on top of the bushes.”

Don’t live in the North? Choose another region.

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