Rose & Flower Gardening
Tips for Readying Your Garden for Winter
Take a few steps in late fall, and spring gardening will be easier
A Healthier Garden Now and Later
As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, there are a number of things you can do in the yard to prepare for winter. Performing these few chores now will help get your garden through the cold weather in good shape, and make gardening easier for you come spring.
Remove or Cut Back Plants
Pull out spent vegetables and annual flowers or cut them off at ground level to leave the roots to decompose in the soil. Cut back herbaceous perennials, noting that those with strong stems and decorative seed heads (such as purple cornflowers or 'Autumn Joy' sedum) can be left standing to add visual interest to your winter garden. Perennials like lavender and Russian sage that set next year's growth buds on woody stems should be left as well.
Clean Up the Garden Floor
Fallen leaves, dead plants and other debris can harbor diseases, rodents, or insect eggs if left on the ground over the winter. Rake up the debris and use it for compost or dispose of it appropriately.
Build or Add to Your Compost Pile
Your fall garden cleanup will likely produce plenty of material for composting. To help it break down more quickly and thoroughly, build your pile with a mixture of materials like dead leaves, grass clippings, plant trimmings and maybe some kitchen vegetable scraps and coffee grounds. For more on how to build a compost pile, read our step-by-step guide "Create a Compost Pile."
Get Rid of Weeds
Spreading mulch around trees, shrubs, and other plants left in the garden over the winter does more than just keep your yard looking neat. It will also help prevent soil moisture loss, moderate the effects of winter temperature fluctuations and help keep weeds from sprouting in the spring by blocking growth and access to sunlight. Bark mulch such as Scotts® Nature Scapes® Advanced Color Enhanced Mulch is a good choice because the bark also amends your soil as it breaks down over time.
When to Plant Your Strawberry Plants
Early spring planting is best in Zone 6 northward; fall planting is preferable from Zone 7 south. In the South, strawberries can begin producing as early as February and, further north, as late as June.
How to Plant Strawberry Plants
Strawberries like to spread out. Dig holes wide and deep enough to accommodate plant roots. Be sure to leave the crown of the plant well above the soil line. Cover the roots completely with soil, pressing down gently but firmly. Space plants 12-18 inches apart. Add a layer of mulch to retain moisture, minimize weeds and keep berries clean.
Caring for Strawberry Plants
Strawberries require consistent moisture but should never stay soggy. If it rains less than an inch during any given the week, you should water your plants. Strawberries produce lots of offshoots. You'll get larger, sweeter berries if you trim all but 3 offshoots from the parent plant. Plant the trimmings to start new beds, or give them to friends who want their own fresh strawberries. In the lower South, using the young plants to replace the parent plant each year helps reduce problems with disease.
Strawberries and Birds
Birds love strawberries as much as we do and will devour the ripest spot on the berry. Prevent birds from sharing your harvest with a drape of bird netting.