Getting the yard and garden ready for winter’s icy grip

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Like many of us, Sue King is preparing her yard and gardens for winter.

The owner of Pine Reflections Gift Store and Garden Centre in Carnarvon is facing the same challenges as other Highlanders: oak leaves and pine needles falling onto her lawn and into her garden beds, and ensuring her new Dogwood stands a chance of surviving the snow and cold.

She shared some tips with Highlander readers.

For example, she doesn’t cut her grass this time of year, preferring a little more height on her lawn. However, that is a personal preference. But she does think it’s an excellent time for lawn lovers to fall fertilize.

She isn’t obsessed with a “pristine” lawn in October or November, either. She isn’t running a leaf blower 24/7.

“I do rake the leaves because you don’t want soggy, wet masses, but I do leave some because they will naturally break down and provide nutrients over the winter,” King said. She also allows some leaves to remain on her garden beds, “as long as they don’t have a lot of leaf rot or anything on them.”

The garden guru added people shouldn’t worry when they can’t keep up with that neighbour who has a green lawn this time of year.

“People who leave them naked, to me that is not the best thing. It actually benefits your yard to leave a little bit of leaf debris on it to provide some nutrients there.”

She also rakes pine needles, “to the best of my ability, because they just become problematic in the spring, because they don’t break down the same way as leaves do.”

“This is the time of year to make sure everyone has their own cozy blanket because we never know what kind of winter we are going to have. If we get snow early and it gets that nice blanket that’s good, but a lot of times we’ll get moisture and then it freezes, which is very hard on the plants.”

She added another tip is to cut things back and shape them. For example, if you leave your hostas, they may have slugs that will winter with the plant and return in force in the spring.

“It’s a good time to cut back. You’re trying to drive the energy into the root bulbs of any of your perennials, too, so you don’t want to have big stalks that can break off in the winter. The energy, everything, starts to go to sleep, literally, and drives the energy down into the root bulb and that’s what you’re doing so it’s a good time to shape. You want to make everything winter-ready but you don’t want to have disease.”

She said cutting back foliage also offers a, “good clean start for regrowth in the spring.”

As for covering trees, shrubs or perennials with burlap, she is a not a fan. “What I always tell people is ‘look in a forest, do you see mother nature wrapping anything’?” However, she knows some people want to protect them from wind and salt. If you do, she said to always built a tent first and wrap the burlap around that. If you wrap tight to the tree, shrub or plant, moisture can get in and cause winter freezing.

She said in general it is more important to prepare the root system. She suggested adding a three-way mix and mulch.

When it comes to bringing plants in, King added, it’s a good time to spray an insecticidal soap on them.

“You want to give everything the best chance to survive the winter, especially if we don’t get snow cover early.”