University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

 Fall News Article


PREPARING GARDENS FOR WINTER

 
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
  
 
Fall reminders for both the indoor and outdoor garden are featured in the new 2008 North Country Garden Calendar from the Extension systems of Maine and Vermont.
 
To store tender perennials for the winter, dig gladiolus corms after a few hard frosts; air-dry for a few days and store in a cool (above freezing), dark place. Dig dahlia roots after a killing frost; pack in peat moss and store just above freezing.
 
Prior to winter, test soil to prepare for next year’s garden.  Obtain a soil test kit from your local Extension office and follow sampling guidelines.  Many garden stores also handle these Extension soil test kits.  If your lawn test shows a need for lime,  there’s still time to spread lime this fall before heavy snows.  Most lime takes a while to work, so by applying it in fall your soils will be ready by spring.  If your vegetable garden test shows a need for organic matter, rake fall leaves onto the garden, or make a note to apply compost next spring prior to working.
 
Prior to winter you can harvest fall vegetables.  Leave kale and Brussels sprouts in the garden, harvesting as needed for many weeks.  Mulch parsnips thickly to prevent early soil freezing, and harvest for many weeks.
 
To prepare fruit trees for the winter, mow around trees to eliminate “grass hotels” that rodents move toward in winter.  Install mouse-guard fencing around fruit trees to keep mice from eating bark. Consider low-voltage electric fencing to keep deer out of the home orchard.
 
To prepare the landscape for winter, stake paths and driveways for the snowblower and snowplow.  Drain hoses, replace hose washers, and store hoses.  Clean and oil tools, service lawn mower, and sharpen pruning shears.  Store pesticides (above freezing). Store granular fertilizer where it will not cake with moisture.  Remove annual weeds that seed late, to keep them from going to seed in the spring.
 
To prepare gardens for winter, remove plant debris from the vegetable garden and add it to your compost pile.  Cut back perennials; cover with fir boughs after the ground freezes.  Stake perennials that need dividing. The reminder will be welcome in April.  Cover hybrid roses with a one-foot mound of sifted compost or finely textured mulch.
 
To prepare indoor plants for winter, move plants with high light needs to south or southwest windows.  Group plants to increase the humidity around them all.  Greatly reduce watering of cacti during winter to promote good spring flowering. Start a few paperwhite narcissus bulbs every few weeks, for winter-long flowering.
 
More such tips and reminders for the other months of the year can be found in the 2008 North Country Garden Calendar, available from the Extension systems of the Universities of Maine and Vermont (www.uvm.edu/mastergardener/).   This calendar features moon phases and key dates, plenty of space to make your own notes each day, and featured plants of the month.  Priced affordably ($7.50) they make great gifts for the holidays.

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