Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Perennials

Getting Gardens Ready for Winter (page 2 of 3)

by Charlie Nardozzi

Vegetable and Flower Gardens

Vegetable and Flower Gardens
Compost leaves and garden debris.

  • Remove spent annual flowers and vegetables. Compost all but those with heavy disease and insect infestations.
  • Cut back perennial flowers to the ground, weed the garden well, and top-dress perennials with a 1- to 2-inch-thick layer of compost.
  • Thin self-sown perennial flower seedlings, such as foxgloves, to their proper spacing.
  • Amend all annual gardens with organic matter, such as chopped leaves, grass clippings, compost, and manure. Till or mix the amendment into the top layers of the soil.
  • Add slow-reacting soil amendments, such as lime and rock phosphate, based on a soil test.
  • Protect tender perennials, such as rosemary or lavender, by mulching with shredded bark mulch, or pot them to bring indoors.
  • Dig and store tender summer bulbs, such as dahlias and cannas.
  • Protect hybrid roses with rose cones or bark mulch piled over the crown of the plant after a hard freeze.
  • Move containers to a protected location when frost threatens. After a frost, remove soil and plants from containers and store ceramic and clay pots in a garage or basement. Place used potting soil in the compost pile.

Extending the Season

The first frost isn’t necessarily the end of the harvest season. If you’re growing cool-season crops, such as lettuce and broccoli, or trying to tease the last few vegetables from warm-season crops like tomatoes, you can protect them to extend the harvest window. Drape cloth sheets or tarps over the plants, making sure they touch the ground to hold in the heat around the base of the plants. Shield choice plants with plastic buckets when frost threatens, then remove them the next morning. There also are a number of effective products that can protect plants into autumn and even early winter.

* Floating Row Cover. Made from lightweight, spunbonded polyester or spunbonded polypropylene fabric, floating row covers are loosely laid over plants and anchored down with soil, stones, or sticks. They allow the sun, rain, and air to reach plants, yet protect crops when temperatures drop into the high 20&deg Fs. They come in different thicknesses; the thinnest ones won't protect against frost, but the heavier ones can protect plants down to about 28° F.

* Grow Tunnel. Grow tunnels are made from row cover fabric stretched over a metal or plastic frame. Some grow tunnels have slits allowing for natural venting so plants don’t overheat, but these don't offer much protection against the cold. The thickest grow tunnel fabrics protect plants down to about 26° F.

* Cloche. Shaped like a bell or dome, cloches are usually made of plastic or glass. They’re great for protecting individual plants, such as basil. Some cloches are airtight, offering more frost protection, but these need to be removed during sunny days so plants don’t overheat. For less maintenance, choose cloches that are vented on top. They won’t protect plants from freezing temperatures as well as closed cloches, but plants are less likely to be burned from excessive heat during the day.

* Cold Frame. A simple, homemade cold frame can be constructed from a 3-foot-wide by 6-foot-long wooden box, or even by hay bales arranged in a box shape. Place an old window sash, piece of translucent plastic, or plexiglass on top. More elaborate prepackaged cold frame boxes are made of fiberglass, metal, or wood and sometimes have automatic vents. The best location for your cold frame is a south-facing, protected spot, such as the side of a garage. Amend the soil well with compost before planting.

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