Preparing for winter

This is generally the time of the year to finish up any gardening tasks. The weather certainly has made many of these tasks difficult and we may start to think that we should put some of them off until next spring. We can still move plants especially trees. The rain we have been receiving will help them out tremendously and quite often at this time of the year, I talk a lot about making sure that our trees have enough water to keep them from “drying out” during the winter months. We can still plant spring flowering bulbs until the end of the month if you can find time between the rain and when things dry out enough for this task. You should be finishing up moving any perennials including iris plants at this point and time as well.

Generally, we start to cut back many of our perennial plants as they start to die back in our gardens. We are finding out that if you have some plants that the stems are hollow, to try to leave these and cut these stems off in the spring. This will allow some of our pollinators a place to hang out for the winter. There are other perennials that can be cut back once they are done flowering but until Jack Frost makes a visit to our gardens, this can wait just a little bit too. We all know it is a matter of time now before Jack Frost comes to visit our gardens and many of the past mornings are coming close.

We can start to prepare for the long winter months ahead by starting to move our tender houseplants closer to the house so they are ready to be moved indoors when threat of frost does come to our area. There are a few plants that need to be brought in as soon as the daytime temperatures don’t go much above 50 degrees. These are the hydrangea plants and hibiscus plants to mention a few. We should have a place ready for those tender bulbs that will need to be dug and put away. Elephant ears, calla lilies, gladiolus bulbs, dahlia bulbs and the like will need to be dug soon, dried, have the excess soil brushed off and stored for the winter. An optimal way to store these for the winter is in a brown paper grocery bag with peat in it. There is a challenge with elephant bulbs as these can take up one whole grocery bag itself. It is amazing how they can double in size in just one year. I call them the giants of the garden. There are a few plants that can be left outside until the last moment such as Christmas cactus but they cannot be allowed to freeze. They will flower better if they are cold and in the dark for a month or so.

Once you bring your houseplants indoors, they should be checked over carefully for insects and any disease problems. Outside they have elbow room but once they are brought in, we often group them together and the insects are pleased to have additional food sources to keep them going through the winter months. You can use a gentle indoor plant insecticide to make sure that they are not carrying any insects into the home. If your houseplants are still outside like mine are, they can be sprayed while they are still outside and just before you bring them in. This is something that you can do the same day so they don’t become infested with insects again. Once your houseplants have made the leap inside, then it is time to start backing off the fertilizer and water them regularly but not so often that they rot.

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