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Perennials and other landscaping plants are better able to tolerate winter conditions when they’re well prepared. Try the tips below to keep your property in peak form come spring!
- Winter watering is key for our Colorado climate. Most homeowners realize the need for watering trees in the growing season, but it’s just as important during the winter months. Drought effects on trees can take up to 5 years to show, and so aren’t immediately apparent. Too, don’t fall into the trap of thinking snowfall compensates for watering – one foot of snow equals only about an inch of rainfall water! Read more about winter watering here and here.
- Container gardeners beware – most tender plants won’t survive the winter if they’re left in containers; they just don’t have enough insulating soil to protect them from penetrating cold. Save the plants by popping them into the ground at least a month before the first expected frost in your area.
- To ensure winter survival, select plants listed for at least one zone further north. For example, if you garden in Zone 4, choose those recommended for Zone 3.
- Cut back dry stems to soil level after frost to neaten the garden and remove pest eggs and disease spores that may linger. Leave stems with attractive seed heads for winter interest.
- During the winter deer can do a lot of damage to gardens. To avoid destruction, select deer-resistant plants.
- When you plant perennials, be sure to place them at the same depth in the soil as they were growing previously. If the top of the roots, or crown, is exposed to freezing weather, the plant might die.
- Set up a compost bin for fallen leaves and garden debris – seasoned compost makes great organic mulch. Put diseased plant material in the trash.
- Help newly-planted plants survive their first winters with insulation – cover them with a 1–2 inch layer of mulch after they go dormant in the fall. Uncover them in the early spring after the soil thaws.
- If you’re troubled by rodents nesting in the soil, wait until the ground freezes before adding a 6-inch layer of organic material as winter mulch.
- Instead of raking, bagging, and discarding, spread your fall leaves lightly over your plant beds to help protect them from the freeze/thaw cycle over the winter. For best results, shred the leaves before applying to prevent them from forming an impenetrable mat that your plants can’t penetrate in the spring.
- Mulch bulb beds with evergreen boughs to protect the soil from shifting and cracking during the winter. Otherwise, plants, especially small, shallowly planted bulbs, can be heaved to the surface.
- Protect the tender bark of young trees from gnawing animals by wrapping stems or trunks with wire or commercial tree-guard products.
- Apply a slow-release granular fertilizer in early spring to keep plants well-fed through the growing season. And always mulch to prevent weed competition and maintain consistent soil moisture.