Making late additions to the landscape can result in devastating losses next spring. Perennials are the most susceptible to late planting, as alternating freezing and thawing of soil literally shoves plants out of soil, exposing crowns. Shrubs and trees can go into the ground later.
Pruning causes plants to produce new growth, which is tender and highly vulnerable to freezing temperatures. Wait to prune shrubs until spring, when all danger of frost has passed. At that point you can remove any winter killed branches. In future years, aim to get pruning done by late August, so plants have time to harden off before any freezes arrive.
Plant cold-tolerant varieties to ensure the longest harvest period. When you come to the nursery, make sure you ask someone all the details about the plant you like- its growing conditions and if it’s cold hardy. Many plants can tolerate our mild winters, and some will just need to be covered or moved to cover in the event of a really cold night.
Trees that you plant in fall need consistent watering as they enter their first winter. One hose-less way to ferry water to a tree is with a water bag in a cart.
Plants that self-sow aggressively in the landscape can be beautiful in bloom, but a gardener’s nightmare if allowed to go to seed. Clip seedheads on plants that tend to self-sow heavily in your garden. Good candidates include joe-pye weed, goldenrod, boltonia and black-eyed susans.
A winter mulch can be a gardener’s best friend, especially around new additions to the landscape. That extra mulch layer can help prevent frost heave around new plants that may not have an extensive root system to help keep them anchored in soil. Put a 2-inch-thick layer around the base of plants to insulate roots.
Be sure to read the label of your favorite weed killer. For common chemicals like Round-Up, 50°F is usually the lowest temperature where the product remains effective at killing weeds. Many plants essentially stop growing as soil temperatures fall so at that point spraying is a waste of time and money. The answer is to spray early in the fall season, while plants are actively growing and air temps are still in the ideal 60-degree range.
It’s vital to destroy spent vegetable crops, especially those that hosted problem pests. Don’t toss these plants into a compost pile unless you know it heats enough to destroy pests and eggs. It’s safer to dispose of infested plants and fallen leaves in bags you put at the curb for garbage pick up.
If you have a garden that’s actively producing when frost threatens, there’s no excuse for not investing in some season extending equipment to keep the fresh flavors—and nutrition—coming into your kitchen. Frost blankets can be used to protect other landscape tender plants as well.
Take time to wrap shrubs and small trees with a winter coat of burlap for protection against cold temps. Plants at risk include those with borderline hardiness and evergreens prone to winter burn.