University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Fall News Article

WINTERIZE YOUR GARDEN

Contact: Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Just as you make sure your car is ready for winter this time of year, so should you make sure your garden is ready.

How? Start by cleaning up the debris in your garden, removing dead foliage as well as the stakes and row markers. Cut back dead growth on your perennials.

These are all measures that not only get your garden and flower beds ready for planting and new growth next spring, but they prevent overwintering pests and diseases on rotting foliage. Be sure to throw out or burn any diseased foliage. Don't put it into the compost pile.

Have you raked those fallen leaves yet? The grass is still green underneath and can use all the light possible to prepare for winter. Removing leaves also allows water and air to get to the living plants, preventing them from suffocating. For this reason, leaves, especially tough ones that pack down and rot slowly, do not make good mulch for perennials and should be raked off perennial beds.

It's too late to divide perennials, but there's still time to mulch shrubs, trees, and perennial beds with a loose organic material such as bark mulch. Do it now, and you will have one less job to worry about in the spring. Mulches also help protect roots during winter from cold and fluctuating temperatures.

Don't mulch too thickly--no more than a few inches--around woody trees and shrubs as the mulch makes a nice home for mice which chew bark. If packed around tree trunks too thick, mulch can smother the tree and cause it to die.

Have you protected your evergreens from drying winter winds? In colder weather the roots of evergreens are frozen and unable to take up water. Winter winds may desiccate or dry them out, eventually causing them to die. This is why leaves turn brown--from lack of water.

Protect your evergreens by putting up a screen on the windy sides, usually the north and west. This can be as simple as erecting three wooden stakes and wrapping burlap around them.  But whatever you do, don't cover the plants directly with plastic. It will heat up like a greenhouse on sunny days and cook your plants.

Or you can spray evergreens with an antidessicant, available from your local garden center. This provides a protective layer on the leaves that will wear off by spring.  Some years this may work or not, depending on specific conditions and climate that year.  Research results are mixed on whether or not antidessicants are effective.


Return to Perry's Perennial Pages, Articles