The first snowfall of the season is upon us, meaning it is time to start thinking about winterizing your yard. There are several steps that you can take to prepare your yard for winter, including pruning, spraying, fertilizing, and mulching.
Most major pruning takes place in the spring; in fact, some plants you do not want to prune until after they bloom in the spring, such as lilacs. However, minor pruning on rose bushes can be done when preparing them for winter. You can also prune your trees in the dead of winter if you will be unable to get to it in the spring before they come out of dormancy. If you have limited time in the spring, as most gardeners do, you can start to clean up your perennials now. You can prune them back and mulch sensitive perennials. You may also choose to let them die down themselves and provide their own mulch over the winter.
Dormant spray for fruit trees is one of the most important sprays you will do all year, yet it is often forgotten because it is performed when there are no leaves on the tree. The tricky part is that you don't want the spray to freeze on the tree, so you want the spray to dry before nightfall or a predicted frost. There are two types of dormant spray. The first is a dormant or horticultural oil. This is a highly refined oil that will coat the tree and choke out any eggs laid by pests. The second is a fungicide; the most common is a copper sulfate. You want to spray your fruit trees now and in the spring for the greatest effect.
There have been many schools of thought regarding fertilizing in the fall. First important lesson is to refrain from fertilizing your trees and perennials in the late season, thereby encouraging them to go into dormancy before the viciously cold weather hits. Your lawn is a different story. At this time of year your lawn can take either an all purpose or a fertilizer heavy in potash and phosphorus. Later in the winter, you can apply a fertilizer heavy in nitrogen - the grass won't take it up until it comes out of dormancy and it will help to green your lawn up early in the spring. Fertilizing in the fall helps ensure a healthy turf in the spring.
Finally, sensitive plants need extra care in the form of mulching and wrapping. As mentioned earlier, certain perennials may require mulching if they have borderline zoning. Also, certain roses require mulching and wrapping. The important thing to consider is the material used for mulching and wrapping. For mulching your plants, you don't necessarily want to use plant litter if there were any disease issues the previous season; many people prefer to use a composted ground bark. Additionally, you do not want to blanket your plants in a material that doesn't breath, such as plastic. Burlap is generally the preferred material for wrapping plants, but others will work as long as they breath and hold up to the winter conditions.
I know we are all getting excited for snowman, sledding, skiing and hot cocoa season, but we also cannot forget to treat our gardens so we can enjoy them next year!