The leaves are turning all sorts of colors and winds are starting to pick up, pushing out the warm air of summer and bringing in the cool air of winter. With this noticeable shift in the seasons, it is recommended to do some minor maintenance on your lawn and landscaping before winter fully sets in. This will help everything last throughout the winter and come back bold and beautiful in the spring! So, here are some reminders of things you should be doing to make sure everything from your annual flowerpots, to your trees and shrubs, to your tools and machinery are taken care of and ready for next spring.
How to Prepare Your Vegetable Garden for Fall
1. Clean Out Veggie Garden Beds
Be sure to clear your garden beds of any plant debris that may be left over from the growing season. Oftentimes, pests and diseases can survive in layers of debris left to sit and rot under the snow all winter long. If this occurs, these pests and diseases can come back even stronger the following spring. So, once all your greens begin to die off, dig them up and throw them in the trash. Avoid composting spent plants as this could also contribute to an escalated pest or disease issue in the coming season.
2. Thoroughly Weed Your Garden
You will also want to make sure to do a very thorough job of weeding your garden. This also goes for your flowerbeds and other landscaped areas. You may think that the winter months will kill off your weed population, but this is not always true! Weeds are tough and any that don’t die will just come back stronger and more stubborn next season. Weeds that aren’t pulled will also go to seed, leaving hundreds of new seeds that will overwinter and pop up first thing when the snow melts next year. So, while weeding is no one’s favorite task, staying on top of it will keep you from having to deal with a compounded issue later down the road.
3. Add Compost to Your Soil
Once your garden beds are cleared of plant debris and weeds, mix a 2-3 inch layer of compost into your garden beds. This will help enrich the soil throughout the winter with little work on your part. Moisture and organisms in the soil will break the compost down further, making sure your soil is full of nutrients and ready for planting in the spring! Read more about composting here.
4. Plant Cover Crops
Planting cover crops in the fall, such as clover or peas, will help protect your garden from the forces of nature. Different cover crops serve different purposes such as adding nitrogen to the soil, protecting your soil from erosion, or fighting pests that might have made a home in your garden. Come spring, you can simply till the cover crop into the soil and your gardens will be ready for planting. For help figuring out which cover crops are best suited to your garden, contact us!
Preparing Your Landscaping for Fall
5. Prune Damaged or Diseased Limbs
Limited pruning of your trees and shrubs in the fall will give you a chance to take care of potential problem branches. Especially under the weight of a heavy winter snow, branches that are damaged or unhealthy may give out, often causing more damage than if the limb had been pruned. So, we recommend waiting until the leaves have fallen off your trees completely and then inspecting your trees for any damaged or compromised limbs. You want to wait for all the leaves to fall because at this point, your tree will have entered a state of dormancy and will not attempt to any new growth following pruning. Prune any damaged limbs with sharp pruners to ensure a clean cut. Avoid pruning any healthy branches until the spring, as these branches may still be holding onto energy and nutrients that will benefit your tree throughout the winter season. For a more in-depth guide on pruning trees and shrubs, check out our blog, "The Ultimate Guide to Pruning Trees & Shrubs".
6. Wrap Tender or Newly Planted Trees
Tree wrap is highly recommended for young, newly planted trees as well as trees with thin bark such as Honey Locust trees and Crab Apple trees. Such trees are susceptible to sunscald and frost cracks due to extreme winter temperature fluctuations, and tree wrap can go a long way in helping protect your trees and preventing any damage from occurring. To apply tree wrap, start at the bottom of the trunk and overlap it as you wind up towards the branches stopping just below the lowest branch. Secure the end of the wrap with duct tape or a staple (stapled to the wrap itself and not the tree). Make sure to unwrap the tree in May so that diseases and bugs aren’t tempted to move in as the temperatures start to warm up.
7. Water Your Trees and Shrubs
Winter conditions are harsh and dry, so watering your trees plenty while they are still actively soaking up water will help them store up all the moisture they will need to make it through the dry winter months. Providing them with extra moisture will also help them come back faster and stronger in the spring! You will even want to water your trees and shrubs throughout the winter months if there is no snow on the ground or if there has not been any recent or consistent precipitation. Even though your plants are in a dormant state throughout the winter, Colorado winters are dry and cold, and the roots of your plants can sustain serious damage if they do not receive adequate moisture. Learn more about The Importance of Winter Watering on our blog today!
8. Protect Sensitive Plants
If you have any particularly sensitive plants in your landscaping or any new perennials that were planted this year, covering the plant with a 4-5 inch layer of mulch will help protect it from the cold by keeping it out of direct contact with snow and ice. This will benefit your plants greatly, and in some cases, could be the one thing that keeps certain plants alive during particularly harsh winters. Roses are among the list of plants that require such protection, especially grafted roses and hybrid tea roses. However, in their case we recommend using rose collars. Place a rose collar around the base of the plant and fill the collar with leaves, mulch, straw, or some type of insulator until the base of the plant is covered. This will protect them throughout the cold season, making sure they come back stronger and even more beautiful the following year! For more information on how to grow and care for roses, read our blog!
9. Wait to Cut Back Your Perennials
For many people, it is standard to cut back perennials or prune trees and shrubs in the fall. However, as we mentioned above, we recommend waiting to heavily prune any of your plants until spring! Leaving your plants un-pruned for the winter provides some additional winter interest throughout the cold months, helps insulate the plant, and helps the plant store as much energy as possible for the next season. As we mentioned in relation to pruning trees, it is good to prune off any damaged parts of your plants, but other than that, it is best to wait to cut back your plants until just before they begin to produce new growth in the spring!
Fall Prep for Your Flower Gardens
Plant Your Bulbs
Many spring-blooming bulbs such as Tulips, Daffodils, Crocus, Irises, and so many more are best planted in late September and October. Spring-blooming bulbs, or fall bulbs, require a chilling period in order to bloom properly. This is why they need to be planted in the fall. We always have tons of different fall bulbs available at the Garden Center around the beginning of fall, and if you need any help with planting them, let us know or check out our blog on Planting Spring-Blooming Bulbs.
Dig Up Tender Bulbs
Certain more tropical bulbs and tubers such as Cannas, Dahlias, and Caladiums may have a difficult time withstanding the freezing temperatures of winter. To make sure that you do not lose them entirely, dig them up soon after the trees begin to change colors. These bulbs can be stored in a cool, dry place and replanted next spring.
Divide Mature or Crowded Perennials
Certain perennials will benefit from being divided if they are beginning to get overcrowded. Daylilies, Irises, and Hostas are just a couple of plants that can be divided. With spring-blooming plants, it is best to divide them early in the fall season. Divisions should be replanted with enough time for them to reestablish themselves before the ground freezes. Plants that bloom in the summer or fall should be divided in the spring as soon as they begin to grow. So, know your plants and divide them in the appropriate season for the best growing results!
Prepare Your Lawn for Fall
Plant Grass Seed or Lay Sod
The fall season provides ideal conditions to establish a new lawn or simply repair your current lawn. The warm sun and cool air encourage root growth. Add consistent moisture and it is sure to thrive. Just make sure to lay your sod or spread your grass seed before the ground begins to freeze so your grass has a chance to really establish its roots before winter is in full swing.
Rake Your Leaves
While raking leaves may feel like an endless task, with fresh layers piling up on the ground minutes after raking the current mess, letting leaves sit on your lawn for too long will not make for a happy yard. Staying on top of raking, even if that means doing just a little bit every day, will make the job seem much less daunting and take a load off your lawn!
Apply A Pre-Emergent Fertilizer to Your Lawn
One of the best things you can do for your lawn in the fall is to apply a pre-emergent fertilizer before you turn off your sprinklers for the season. Applying a pre-emergent in the fall will help control the growth of crabgrass, foxtail, and other things you don’t want growing in your lawn. It also provides your grass with one last dose of nutrients to encourage deep root growth, which will lead to improved water retention and a more lush and healthy lawn in the spring. To learn more about pre-emergent fertilizers and how they work, check out our blog!
Other Recommended Fall Prep
Disconnect Your Garden Hose
It might not seem to make that much of a deal, but allowing your hose to stay connected through the winter will cause water that is trapped in the hose and in the pipes underneath your house to freeze. Often, these pipes are incapable of handling the pressure of water freezing and expanding, and the pipes are prone to splitting or cracking. This causes a plethora of problems. Not only does it compromise your water pressure the next time you go to use your hose, but it also wastes a lot of water. And where is this water going? Most likely underneath your house, seeping down near the foundation, or causing other structural damages that are costly to fix. Also, finding a fix for this damage is not easy either, and often involves getting down and dirty in a tiny crawl space to find and mend the broken piece of pipe. Easily avoid all this hassle simply by disconnecting your hose when the weather starts to turn cold.
Prepare Your Tools for the Next Season
I assure you that as soon as spring rolls back around, you are going to be itching to get back to gardening. The last thing you are going to want to deal with is worn or defective tools because you didn't care for them properly at the last season's end. So, take some time to clean off your gardening tools. The metal ends of trowels, hand rakes, and other tools can even be placed in a bucket of sand mixed with vegetable oil to avoid rusting and keep them in good shape all winter. After a long season, it is likely that your pruners could use some attention as well. Sharpen these with a metal file and coat them with a little vegetable oil to prevent rusting so that your pruners will be ready to go at the first sign of spring. You also won’t want to forget about your lawnmowers and garden tillers! Be sure to always keep up on oil changes as needed to ensure they stay in good working condition. When you are done using them for the season, drain gas lines and store them in a dry, covered space for the winter.
Empty Porch Pots and Flower Containers
The long winter months can prove to have a brutal effect on certain porch pots and annual containers. Terra cotta pots are especially susceptible to the freeze and thaw cycle, often sustaining chips and cracks that will only get worse with time. Protect your terra cotta by storing them in a dry place, such as a shed or garage. If you do not have the extra space to pull them all indoors, empty the pots and store them upside-down against the side of your house. Be sure to cover them with a tarp, as this will help greatly in keeping moisture off them.
Cover Your Irrigation System Backflow Preventer
It is never a bad idea to protect your irrigation system’s backflow preventer throughout the winter months. During mild freezes, it is adequate to simply cover it with something that will insulate it and keep the water from freezing. When entering the winter season, however, we recommend turning the shut-off valves and releasing the excess water so there is no chance of freeze damage. In most residential systems, there are two shut-off valves, typically covered in blue rubber and located on either side of the backflow device. Turn the lower valve 90 degrees to shut off water flow into the device. To release the water that is still left over in the backflow device, loosen the two bleeder valves located just beneath the plastic top of the device with a flathead screwdriver. Once loosened, water will spew out of the valves until all excess water is gone. If the water does not stop after a couple of minutes, check that you fully turned the shut-off valve, as water still may be getting through.
Winterize Your Sprinkler System
Just like your garden hose and backflow preventer, any water left in your sprinkler system throughout the winter can cause serious and costly damage. In Colorado where freezing temperatures are a guarantee, winterizing your sprinkler system is non-negotiable. If you have experience and an air compressor, it is possible to do this yourself. You can also hire an irrigation service to blow out your sprinkler system for you. Just be sure to get this done before the first hard frost of the season to avoid costly damages come spring!
Send Us Your Questions!
As always, we are happy to help! So if you have any questions at all, let us know. You can contact us by filling out a contact form, you can give us a call (970-484-5022), or you can come into the store. We hope to see you soon!