Time to prepare your plants for the coming winter

How can we help our garden treasures avoid winter kill?

In the heat of mid-summer, sprinklers come on with regularity around the neighbourhoods. Most everyone is concerned and diligent about ensuring their lawns and gardens are hydrated.

However, this particular concern seems to evaporate (along with the water) as the weather cools, leaving plants to fend for themselves as they prepare for a Kootenay winter. Without the necessary moisture, their roots turn toward the surface looking for water and become vulnerable to killing frosts (especially when there is no snow cover).

How can we help our garden treasures avoid winter kill? The solution is simple: keep perennials, shrubs and trees watered deeply for as long as possible during the fall season. A deep water every four days gives just enough time for the surface to dry while the lower ground remains damp, forcing the roots to go down for moisture. I usually water my plants every other day through July. Then come mid-August, I stretch it to every three days; in September it’s every four and by mid October, I’m down to once a week.  Another tip: if shrubs or trees are planted in the lawn, ensure there is a two-foot circle cut out of the turf around the trunk of the plant. Grass is greedy and will rob anything around it of water.

I may sound like a broken record (or CD) on the subject of fall watering but it’s so important to the health of a garden.  We’ve had minimal rainfall in August and September and as I’ve driven around the community it’s been quite apparent that some plants are suffering due to a lack of water. Their foliage has turned colour early and leaves have dropped long before they should.

Besides keeping your garden watered, it’s a good idea to do a final clean-up in the garden by raking up leaves, weeding and cutting back foliage of herbaceous perennials. This will remove hiding places for pests to overwinter. There are always exceptions though and I suggest leaving ornamental grasses as is until spring. If cut back in the fall, the wet snow sits on the cut foliage and rots the roots. Finally, mound the base of roses with peat moss once the ground freezes.

It seems the norm nowadays that time passes way too quickly. Such is the case with the 2012 garden season.  We had a late start because of all the spring rain but the sun no sooner came out than its hidden again amongst the grey clouds rolling in.

Ah well! It was a great year. My new garden gave me great joy as did so many others I visited. And the city baskets and beds put on a spectacular show! Congrats to Trail’s Communities-in-Bloom, especially Bill Garnett, for being one of five cities in the world nominated for best flower beds. What an accomplishment!

Before I go, I’d like to thank my garden partner, Betty Drover, for her contributions to our column and all those who share their passion for plants with me when we meet. Gardening has been such a positive connection to this loving community, for which I’m most grateful.

Have a healthy and safe winter…..

Patty Siddall operates a local garden business and shares this space with business partner Betty Drover. Contact: 250-364-1005


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