Prepare your garden for winter
what to do to prepare your garden for winter, gardener Bourne End, Marlow
The first frosts have made their mark, leaving all tender bedding and perennials are black and mushy. Here are a few things that must be done now to prepare your garden for winter.
This list of jobs includes lifting tender plants to protect overwinter and mulching those that will be left in situ. You’ll also need to clear the residue of perennial plants that have now died back for winter. And now is the right time to move and replant dormant shrubs. You can also plant new bare root or root ball plants.
Clearing the detritus means the winter framework is left to be enjoyed. Those nagging jobs would otherwise distract you from the winter beauty.
Deal with leaves now
The worst problem now is the masses of leaves that need collecting from lawns. Those in borders are untidy but won’t do any harm. Those left on the lawn for more than a week will set it back, so get them into leaf bins or onto the compost heap.
The dahlias and cannas have been hit by frost and need to be cleared, as do the calla lillies. I have treated them all largely the same, but this year am leaving some cannas in the ground. These will have an initial mulch of grit or gravel. Mulches can be topped up when I do a winter compost mulch of the entire bed. Others will retire to the greenhouse to be kept slightly damp. If the ground looks like it will freeze I might have to remove them all to the greenhouse.
The gravel serves to stop frost penetration but does not keep moisture at the crown, or that is the theory anyway. It also shows me where they are, so when I dig the beds over to remove weeds I don’t stick my fork into them.
I employ a similar tactic when planting bulbs. Just covering the surface where they are planted with gravel helps me to see where they are. It eventually gets turned into the soil and helps with the overall balance and my drive towards perfect soil; eight years working on it and some to go still.
Some bulbs will also benefit from having a little grit or gravel underneath to prevent rotting in damp soils. They need just enough to stop water gathering and rotting the basal plate.
Clearing the decks to prepare your garden for winter
Clearing away the detritus of the autumn will also prepare your garden for winter. That way you may enjoy the structure left behind in the post-perennial period.
Mine is buxus shapes – still forming – and multi-coloured stems of dogwood, under-planted with cyclamen, narcissus and primulas.
Removing the decaying growth also enables the first shoots of spring to be seen more clearly, something we’ll be awaiting with anticipation of warming and longer days. Replacing it later with an even mulch of compost brings a neat background where new growth sings out.
The waste collected of course contributes to the compost heap, continuing the cycle of material grown from compost and returned to it.
I have also cut down my – or more correctly my daughters – banana tree. This will also be left in place with a fleece wrap and wire cage, topped with bubble wrap to prevent water getting at the crown. Now three years old, leaving this plant out is nerve racking. But in the sheltered spot I am hoping it will not just survive but benefit from the southern sun as it rises in spring.