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Winterizing Your Garden

It’s not yet time to brace for impending frost and snowfall, but gardening is all about looking forward. While we enjoy what’s left of sunny, warm days and summer’s late greenery, we can also plan for what’s ahead. In Southwest Virginia, winter tends to sneak into focus, and it is not unusual for first frost to come sandwiched in-between unseasonable heat waves. Thus, it may be hard to pick an exactly right time to winterize your garden (or your irrigation system, for that matter). But, whenever you chose to make the leap, here are some tried and true tips to remember.

Winter Garden

Photo by Amanda Slater

Why Winterize?

A season change necessitates changes in our lives. When winter comes, my family switches on our gas and dusts off the radiators. Other folks make further changes: fortifying windows and doors, lugging out snow shovels from storage, closing family swimming pools, etc. Our gardens, like our homes, need to be bolstered against weather changes. Winterizing a garden keeps it safe and ensures a bountiful harvest next spring. To start winterizing, you’ll need to:

Clean, Clip, and Weed: Pests and diseases can overwinter on dried up plant debris left in your yard or garden. Remove dead or unhealthy growth from existing plants and collect all plant debris so your garden can be a clean slate for next year. You’ll also want to remove any weeds that have settled in your plot over the summer.

Dig Up Bulbs: Though some of your plants may be cold-hardy, there’s likely a few bulbs that could be damaged by a heavy frost. Dig tender bulbs up and store them in a sealed container. For hardier bulbs, an extra helping of mulch (about three inches) should keep them healthy through a hard freeze.

Protect Beds: Plant beds need some TLC during the seasonal transition. Adding compost to the soil will make for better growth come spring, and a layer of mulch will help dormant seeds brave the cold.

Wrap and Water Trees: Since fall has been predictably dry so far, evergreen trees may need a bit of help getting the moisture they need to shine through winter. Take time to hydrate them this fall. Young trees have fragile bark that needs reinforcement against cold wind and freezing rain—wrap them in tree wrapping to give them a boost.

Mind Water Features: For pools, ponds, and irrigation systems, winterization is a must. Frozen water can destroy water pumps and shred pipes. Typically, water will need to be drained or blown out of the system. If you’ve never winterized a water feature before, it’s best to put your trust in a professional.

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