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Maintaining Your Garden in the Fall

Try these fall gardening tips to prepare your garden for winter.

Maintaining Your Garden in the Fall
You might get away with doing virtually nothing to your garden throughout the fall season, but the price you'll pay is simply more work to be done next spring. Although parts of your garden might be tough enough to withstand the oncoming winter, others may need extra protection. Try these fall gardening tips to prepare your garden for winter:

Don't cut perennials too early

Cutting back perennials too early in the fall may result in a quick flash of tender growth during an unpredictable time of the year. Fall temperatures can fluctuate without warning, leaving your plants vulnerable to sudden frost. Allow your perennials to become dormant first, responding to the cooler temperatures and shorter days by naturally slowing their growth. Try waiting until mid-to-late fall (October and November) to start pruning the top of plants, when growth should come to a halt altogether. You should also take this time to trim any weak, damaged or dead branches on trees, shrubs and other plants before they become snow-covered.
Garden Sprinkler

Keep watering

Watering plants during the fall season can be an effective way to minimize winter damage to your garden. Roots of plants are still active in the autumn, and they will absorb and store any water they get in order to replace water that gets lost during the winter. Even when flowers and leaves start to fall off, keep watering trees and shrubs. This will help keep moisture in the ground and keep roots warmer for a longer period of time, helping plants survive the winter. Cut back watering a little in September, but water through until the first freeze.
Backyard garden with mulch

Make use of mulch

Another way to prep your garden for a cold winter is by using mulch at the base of trees and shrubs. This layer of insulation on the top of your garden soil will limit frost penetration and help prevent sudden changes in soil temperature from deep freezing, which will help protect the root system of tender plants. Straw, hay, chopped leaves, wood chips or other organic material are all good examples of mulch.
Tree wrapped in burlap

Shelter delicate trees, shrubs and perennials

A long winter can be especially hard on tender trees and shrubs. To minimize damage caused by frost and snow, consider wrapping your trees and shrubs in burlap and securing them with twine. You can also protect delicate perennials by building windbreaks. Construct a wooden frame and cover it with burlap, then staple it to the frame and place it over your tender perennials to provide extra protection from the elements. If you have a problem with mice or rabbits, try covering the trunks of trees with plastic tree collars, and the base of shrubs and perennials using wire mesh or chicken wire.

Always plan ahead

It's always a good practice to think ahead if you want to protect your plants and shrubs from the impending ice and snow. Whenever possible, avoid planting fragile plants under the eaves of your house, where snow and ice is likely to fall onto your garden below, or close to roads and walkways where snow can pile up from shovelling or ploughing. Although it might be too late to start taking preventative measures now, keep them in mind when you plan next year's garden.

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