Winterizing Your Yard
My favorite time of the year is Spring, when everything comes to life. Spring is awesome, even though I know perfectly well, every season has its own beauty and benefits. That may be the case, but putting all my plants, especially my flowers to bed in the late Fall is really hard for me. I realize that probably my over the top excitement of Spring is due to my longing of my colorful flowers and tasty fresh vegetables, after a long Winter.
After decades of yard work I have discovered there is one chore, that I do not like in gardening. Winterizing my yard. There are multiple steps that involve proper winterizing, in order to have an easier start in the Spring. One of the reasons for a Fall clean up is, to insure a better starting point in the Spring and avoid disease in the plants. Clean up helps to redirect the nutrients and moisture to the living plants rather than to weeds and the dead plants.The task may be boring and hard (My hands and back are killing me right now), but I have to motivate myself enough to just get it done. I know if I take the proper steps my plants will thank me and “show off” in the Spring.
The lawn is the first step in the winterizing process, because applying the final fertilizer needs to start mid Fall.This usually takes place any time between first part of October until beginning of November. This application is really important for the health and strength of the lawn. If you don’t want to fertilize more than ones a year, than Fall application should be the one you should prioritize. Fertilizing in the Fall, right before the grass goes dormant, helps the roots soak up the nutrients and use it to get going in the Spring. Also, before you put your lawn mower away for the Winter, mow the final time. Some lawn professionals will recommend for final mowing, to cut the lawn just a bit shorter than during Summer. But that is totally optional and a personal preference. I highly recommend digging up any broad leaf weeds that may have grown in the lawn during the Fall. This helps direct the nutrition to strengthen the roots of the grass rather than the weeds.
Dig up all dead and rotten vegetable plants. Clean out all weeds. Prepare the soil by adding some compost (you can just add the leaves from your yard and it will breakdown over the Winter) and gently tilling the ground or grow boxes. My husband and I have found it is much easier for us to have our garden boxes ready in the Fall, for planting in the Spring. (A friendly reminder, if you let your tomatoes drop in the soil and they get tilled in, you may end up with dozen of volunteer tomato plants in the Spring – they reseed themselves really easy).
Trees and Bushes
Cut all dead and broken limbs off your trees. Gently shape them if they need it. Over the years as I have trimmed back many bushes, and I have learned the hard way which bushes to leave alone. Any bush that blooms in the Spring are NOT trimmed or cut back in the Fall. If they get trimmed in the Fall, they will not bloom in the Spring. These bushes need to be trimmed down after the blooms are spent during late Spring to early Summer. Examples of Spring blooming bushes are the Lilac, Forsythia, Azalea, Spirea and Snowball bush. There are dozens more. Make sure to do a final deep watering of all our Evergreen trees and bushes, especially if they are a first year tree or bush, and they haven’t had the chance to get established.
There are many ideas and suggestions on how to winterize perennials. Some say to leave them alone until Spring and others recommend to trim them down in the Fall. Personally I have always trimmed mine down in the Fall. I clean them up beginning of November because the flowers are usually completely spent and dead. I usually cut the plants down and leave only about 3 inches. Trim back if the plant is getting bigger than you would like it or just out of control.
Roses are an entire blog of their own. And frankly, I have not mastered them one bit. I don’t claim anything with roses. The ten rose bushes I have in my yard, have been around for several years. I am sure the real experts would tell me that I am not taking care of them right. We live in Zone 5 (our winters get below freezing) and this is what I do – I cut them down to about 3 feet tall. I get rid off all dead and diseased limbs and stems. Come Spring I go in and trim back a little, enough to get rid of all the dead canes . Roses don’t like deep freeze and winds. When the ground is frozen cover the rose bushes with mulch. This will act as a protection for them during the winter.
General Clean Up
Get rid of all annuals (unless you want to bring some of them in or you have a greenhouse). Clean out your pots with the old soil – you don’t want to reuse the old soil next season – your flowers will thank you for that. Rake up all dead leaves out of beds and by all means you can chop them up with your lawn mower and use it as mulch. Clean and sharpen your tools and service your lawn mower. It is easy to want to wait until Spring, but you will be glad you did it as part of your winterizing process.
I also like to remove all weeds in my flower and garden beds. There is no reason having the weeds around, fighting for the moisture and nutrients in my yard. I have a severe issue with weeds. The definition of a weed is, any plant that intentionally was not planted in a specific place, but that keeps growing and multiplying and interfering with other plants, is a weed. One weed allowed to go to seed, lead to years of fighting with new weeds. Also, for those who have an irrigation system for their yard, now is the time to turn the system off (if you haven’t yet) and make sure all your pipes are drained.
Spring or Fall Clean-up?
I have heard people say they like to do Spring clean up instead of Fall clean up, that is totally okay. I like to do my big clean up in the Fall. For me it’s like putting all my babies to bed at nights and when Spring comes around(new dawn), it feels like a refreshed morning when you just get up and do few things, without major stress, because everything is already ready to go.