Spring Is Coming How to Keep Your Garden Alive Through Winter

It’s hard to escape the phrase “winter is coming” - but it’s true: The cold season is on the way, and unless you want to wake up to a brown wasteland in your garden come springtime, you must start preparing your plants for low temperatures. Different types of plants react to winter in different ways, which means you shouldn’t expect a covering tarp to keep everything alive for the harsh ahead.
This guide will walk you through the cleaning, covering, and cultivating of your garden during the fall and winter - because soon enough, spring is coming.
Preparing Trees

It might seem like trees are the hardiest of all flora, designed to survive the worst weather conditions and continue growing toward the sky. However, a particularly harsh winter can easily sap the life from a tree, which means you need to prepare your trees for low temperatures as much you prepare anything else in your yard.
Young trees are the most susceptible to the cold, which means any tree between three and 15 years needs special attention before winter comes. Because they don’t have enough bark or heartwood to prevent freezing or thwart burrowing pests like squirrels and rabbits, you should protect saplings with wire or plastic tree guards. Additionally, young trees’ roots might not reach deep, so all through fall you should water your saplings deeply and cover the ground with mulch after the first big freeze.
Evergreens and conifers, like rhododendrons and pines, don’t go dormant during winter, which means they need plenty of water and fortification against grazers. It’s wise to wrap your evergreens in burlap, which will shield them from both icy winds and hungry deer.

Preparing Lawn

Most grass goes dormant during wintertime, but just because your lawn is asleep doesn’t mean it can survive in all conditions. Fall is perhaps the season when the grass needs the most attention because preparing your lawn for winter requires weekends-worth of work and attention.
Throughout fall, you should be diligent about raking up leaves and other detritus; when snow falls, it will compact any organic material left on your lawn into the soil, preventing the lawn from breathing. Another way to prevent this is mowing your grass especially low - about 1 to 1.5 inches - to avoid the building-up of thatch. You can poke aeration holes into the turf to help loosen roots and facilitate oxygenation during the cold season, but clearing debris should be your number-one concern.
Your grass also needs to eat while it is hibernating. The fast-grow fertilizer you use in the spring isn’t good for cold temperatures. Instead, you need a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer with high phosphorus to stimulate root growth. During this time, you should also spread seed over your lawn, especially in areas where your lawn is sparse. To ensure both fertilizer and seed are dispersed evenly, you should rake over your lawn with compost and water for about half an hour every day until the first frost.

Preparing Bulbs

Your lawn and your trees are certainly the most important features in your yard, so it follows that they require the most effort to prepare for winter. Meanwhile, no bulbs bloom during the frigid months, which means you need only take simple precautions. The biggest danger to bulbs is a frozen ground, which could push them to the surface, where they’ll freeze and die. To prevent this, you should keep the soil of your flower beds slightly warmer with evergreen boughs or some other thick mulch.

Preparing Perennials

Perennials are meant to survive the winter just like trees, but because they are smaller and thinner, they could use your help. Most of the work to protect perennials doesn’t need to be done until the first frost, giving you plenty of time to devote to your saplings, lawn, and flower beds.
First, you should spend some time pruning off dead or dried-up branches on your bushes and shrubs. Not only will this help the plants channel energy into more vigorous stems and seed heads, but it will also reduce opportunities for pests and disease to spread. The plant debris can be converted into compost, which when placed on the soil around perennials’ roots, will further aid in the plants’ survival. In fact, compost is useful in preparing all plants in your garden for the winter ahead, and nearly all organic matter can safely be composted.

Spring is coming, but winter is coming sooner. The more yardwork you complete in the coming weeks, the less hassle you will have when temperatures start to warm and outdoor festivities begin again.

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