Yes, now is the time we put our gardens to rest for the coming winter months. As the tree leaves turn colour and drop to the ground, frost has also landed on our plants in our gardens. By now, the cold nights have made us bring our houseplants inside and should prompt us to do the task of preparing our gardens for the winter ahead.
This is the perfect time to take cuttings to increase your number of plants. These cuttings can be grown and kept in greenhouses or under growlights, and with this gardening can be enjoyed all year long. This is achieved by taking cuttings that are 2 1/2 – 3 inches long and stripping any lower leaves. Insert the cuttings into holes created with a pencil into a moist soiless mix, then firm the soiless mix around the base of the cutting. Cover the fresh cuttings with a clear dome or plastic bag, to conserve their moisture for a couple of weeks. They will droop a few days, but then should recover nicely.
There is still time left to re-seed the bare patched of lawn that we have. As the hot summer weather is over, the seed will grow roots well and constant watering isn’t as necessary. You may not be able to see the new green shoots, but you will have a head start on any spring-sown grass seed.
The time is here to prepare our gardens and plant for the winter months. Any annuals should be removed and fresh compost or mulch added to the beds. Perennials that bloom in the spring and summer can be lifted, divided and replanted or given to friends for their gardens. Fall blooming plants are best divided in the spring, otherwise you will shorten their blooming time and it will add stress to the plant, as it is already trying to hurry to get itself ready for the winter. When dividing your plants, have the hole already dug in it’s new location, as this will decrease the time the plant has to stay out of the ground losing moisture around its roots.
Trees and shrubs can still be planted, check with your nursery to ensure the variety you choose will come through the winter, as some varieties are fussy to their requirements needed.
Roses should be hilled and protected for their winter sleep as well. Hybrid Tea roses should be pruned back to 12 inches from the base and protected with a mound of soil, thus protecting the crown of the plant. The remaining exposed canes of the plant can be protected by using styrofoam protectors available, just remember to add a brick to the top or it may blow away! Miniature roses needn’t be pruned, but the same method as the Hybrid Tea varieties can be used.
Climbing roses are hilled with a mound of soil, protecting the tender crown of the plant. The long canes are left tied to the climbing structure if in a sheltered enough location, or are removed and carefully placed in a dug trench beside the base of the plant. They are then covered with soil to protect for the winter. When spring arrives and there are no longer any threats of frost, that is the time when protective coverings and mounded soil is removed and washed away.
If you own a pond, it isn’t necessary to drain the water from it. What is necessary though, is to drain the water from the pond pipes and remove the water-submersible circulating pump. This pump still needs to be kept in water, therefore store it in a large pail of water in a place that will not freeze such as a heated garage or basement.
Water does expand when it freezes, but small heaters are available to keep a small hole in the top of the pond from freezing. These heaters are wonderful for keeping holes in a pond with fish, as well as preventing your liner from tearing. The fish when left in a pond over winter will not eat or be near as active, but it is still necessary to keep a hole open to allow any gases to escape. The pond must be at least 30 – 36 inches deep to over-winter fish, with goldfish and koi being the best suited.
If you haven’t dug up your corms and tubers, you should definitely do it right away. Plantings of Gladiolus, Dahlias and Canna Lilies should be lifted, stems removed to 3 – 4 inches and over-wintered in a cool, dry and dark place. Dahlias and Canna Lilies should be stored in dry sand or peat moss and Gladiolus corms should be stored in a container with lots of air movement, such as a nylon mesh onion bag. Check them once a month, giving a very small sprinkling of water to the tops of the Cannas and Dahlias.
Fruits and vegetables should already be harvested, yet root crops such as onions, carrots, beets and leeks have a better flavour after a few frosts. They can be left in the ground until the middle of November if you are short on space or like a fresh-dug flavour.
Herbs should also be cut and dried to use for the winter months. Chives, sage, oregano and tarragon all dry well when tied in small bunches and hung upside-down until dry. They can also be frozen in small ziplock bags and used when needed. Also consider making herbal vinegars and oils.
Another winter-time necessity is to remove all the gas from your lawnmower and weed eater, as gas breaks down over time and will do damage to your equipment, Don’t forget to clean and sharpen your tools; either now or over the winter months for next year.
Even though we are preparing our gardens for winter, remember to plant spring-flowering bulbs; tulips, daffodils, crocus and more. These bulbs can be purchased at many places around the area and can be planted right up to the end of November or until the ground is too hard to work. Remember to plant in odd numbers or in sweeping drifts, as this will eliminate the look of flowers resembling soldiers standing to attention.
Most of all, after preparing for the long winter ahead, remember your feathered friends who will delight you with their sometimes strange and peculiar habits, and look forward to next spring, when you can enjoy more of your gardening hobby!
NOTE: Jennifer will be teaching various courses offered through Continuing Education in Fergus and Guelph. For more information email Jennifer or call the office at (519) 836-7280.
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Email: Jennifer Moore