Readying Southern Gardens For Winter

R. L. Rhodes
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Mulching with pinestraw.

While Southern winters are comparatively mild, the cold can still damage a dormant garden. Take the following precautions to ensure that your garden is ready when spring rolls back around.

Travis, our Muddy Boots reporter in Atlanta, recommends removing any plants killed by the first frost, since rotting plant matter can attract disease to your garden. If you see the dying annuals in your bed, go ahead and add them to the compost head. While you’re at it, he says, “Dig up less than hardy bulbs, such as elephant ears and caladiums.” They can be stored some place warm and dry until next season.

In regions that don’t get consistent snow coverage, unprotected perennials can be damaged by “heaving” as the ground alternately freezes and thaws. Spreading an alternative ground cover, like straw or mulch, can help protect dormant plants by trapping warmth at the surface. Delay adding ground cover to your garden until just before the first big freeze is due. That will allow your plants can develop some cold-hardiness in advance of the winter.

If you’ve rounded out your garden with additional plants in containers, you may want to bring the more cold-sensitive varieties indoors until the spring. Because potted soil is more susceptible to changes in temperature, even plants that would be relatively hardy when planted in the ground may be at greater risk when container-grown. If you intend to move some plants in and out in response to frosts or freezes, save yourself some trouble later on by arranging their containers to make the transitions more convenient. For larger plants, keep a hand truck or dolly nearby to ease the burden of frequent moves.

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

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