Mid-Atlantic

December, 2006
Regional Report

Store Clay and Glazed Pots

Before clay and glazed pots are frozen to the ground, empty them or move them indoors with plants intact. Otherwise, winter's freeze and thaw will likely crack them. After tossing summer's soil in the compost pile, scrub pots, then rinse them. Disinfect pots with 1 part household chlorine bleach to 9 parts water; soak them for 30 minutes, then rinse with water. The chlorine's strength decreases by 50 percent after two hours; another 25 percent after four hours. So prepare only what you need immediately. Clean and rinse saucers. Store pots and saucers in a dry place in basement, garage, or shed. No heat necessary.

Drain and Store Garden Hoses

Remove and drain outdoor garden hoses. (Leave one connected in the basement or garage to water newly planted trees and shrubs throughout winter.) Replace old washers with new (one less chore come spring), then screw opposite hose ends together for easier storage in garage, shed, basement. Turn off water at indoor connection/lever so it doesn't freeze in faucet or outdoor pipe.

Mulch Roses After Hard Frost

Hybrid teas, floribundas, grandifloras, and newly planted landscape roses need winter protection. Established shrub/landscape roses do not. After a hard frost, remove remaining foliage; this signals winter dormancy to the rose. Mound two or three 5-gallon buckets worth of soil, compost, leaf mold, or wood mulch in a 12-inch-tall pyramid shape surrounding the rose's base (where canes meet soil). This will protect the rose graft and tender roots on new transplants.

Tidy Up Food Gardens

Remove dead plant material from vegetable gardens. Put in compost pile if there's no evidence of insects or diseases. (DO NOT put weeds, straw, or hay in compost.) Remove plastic or synthetic mulch or landscape fabric. Apply manure, mushroom soil, compost, or leaf mold on top of soil (to turn under come spring).

To protect strawberries, cover with 3 to 4 inches of loose organic mulch, such as straw, pine needles, bark chips, or hay.

Take Stock of the Veggie Garden

While you're in the vegetable garden, take notes about what plants you liked, which ones did well, and where they grew. Thumbing through winter's catalogs, you'll better know how much room you'll have for new crops! Next spring, you'd best rotate crops just like a good farmer would do. That means moving the tomatoes to the bean patch, for example, to reduce insect and disease damage and to vary the plants' nutrient demands on the soil.

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