Garden Help Desk: Best Practices for Keeping Your Winter Garden Safe News, sports, jobs

Perennial foliage and stems destroyed by frost can be left in the winter to protect beneficial insects, etc., but must be cut off before new growth begins in the spring. (Courtesy of Meredith Seaver)

I’ve read several articles on how to best clean your garden for the winter. I’ve been pulling up plants, roots and everything in recent years. However, I have read some articles that it is better to leave the roots so that they naturally degrade in the soil and do not lose the beneficial microbes that live on and around the roots. Some also tell you to leave the plants and not clean them up until spring to make room for the beneficial insects to overwinter.

Depends. What do you want your flower beds and gardens to look like in winter? How busy are you? Were your plants healthy? How late is the season and how fast is the weather changing? Each practice has its advantages and disadvantages.

You can cut the annual plants and leave the roots in the soil. This can certainly help loosen the soil by adding organic matter and rotting roots release certain nutrients back into the soil.

On the other hand, it may leave plant material in the soil that can get sick, especially if you have been growing the same plant in the same place for a few years. Otherwise, the harder roots may not decompose completely before they are planted in the spring. However, bypassing these roots is not a big inconvenience.

There may be microbes on the roots, but usually at least some in the soil. Adding plant-based compost to the soil is another way to add beneficial microorganisms to the soil if you are concerned about it.

The tops of perennials that have died from frost can be cut back on the ground for a cleaner look, the stems and litter can be beheaded for beneficial insects, or even “as” left for beneficial insects and birds living there in the winter. (Courtesy of Meredith Seaver)

Leaving the whole plants in place now is less work. The seed heads from the worn-out flowers provide food for the local birds that winter here, and every plant with hollow or damaged stalks provides a nesting place for the lone bees. Other insects, mostly harmless or useful, lay their eggs on the dead stems of annual and perennial plants, and the stems and fall foliage provide shelter for other insects and invertebrates for the winter. Most insects, mites, and small garden animals are harmless or beneficial, but if you leave the plants in place, they can also provide shelter from pests and diseases, so never leave the tops or roots of diseased plants.

There are some disadvantages to leaving plants in the flower bed. Early spring planting may need to be postponed as bees and other insects have not yet hatched. This can be ugly, so gardeners who want to leave useful insects, mites and small vertebrates in place sometimes decide to tidy up their front garden at least a little bit and leave things there in the backyard to provide shelter. beneficial effects. And leaving whole plants in the flower bed also means postponing cleaning and soil preparation until spring, when there are other things, such as pruning, that need attention.

In two garden situations, it’s always best to remove frost-damaged plants, vegetable gardens, and large container gardens where you want to reuse the soil. The same small variety of plants are usually grown in vegetable gardens every year, so cutting and removing crop rotations and dead plants reduces the chances of common pests and diseases in vegetable gardens.

In large container gardens where you want to reuse the tank and soil, remove annuals, roots, and anything if the plants were healthy. In small and medium-sized container gardens, the soil can be so crowded with roots that you won’t be able to recycle it. You can save yourself time and frustration by destroying plants and soil, cleaning the tank, and restarting with fresh soil.

I am ready to make autumn fertilizer for my lawn. Should I put more fertilizer around the trees in the lawn so they can get fall fertilizer too?

If the plants were healthy in the large container gardens, we can leave the plants until spring and then pull out the “roots and everything” so that the tank and soil can be reused for a new planting. (Courtesy of Meredith Seaver)

Nitrogen application in late fall helps get the lawn off to a good start in the spring, but autumn is not the time to fertilize the trees.

Newly planted shady trees should not be fertilized in the first year. Younger shady trees planted a few years ago may need mild slow-release nitrogen every spring for a few years. Well-established or mature shady trees actually need little, if any, additional fertilizer, and if they do, slow-release nitrogen in early spring is the best way to ensure that. Applying fertilizer in the fall can stimulate new growth and disrupt dormancy and winter hardiness.

Save money and don’t apply extra fertilizer to your trees this fall.

In small container gardens, the soil is usually too compacted to be reused in the container. Stems and dead flowers can be left in the winter for beneficial insects, but the soil and plants must be removed in the spring. The soil of healthy small container gardens can be broken and placed in flower beds and vegetable gardens so that they are not wasted. (Courtesy of Meredith Seaver)

If the container gardens were not healthy, the plants and soil should be removed at the end of the season and the soil should not be reused into the landscape. (Courtesy of Meredith Seaver)

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