Winter? But it’s 80 degrees outside! Though it may not seem like it now, rest assured, cold weather is on the horizon. And the perfect time to prepare for winter’s onslaught is during the fall, when temperatures are still mild and pleasant. There’s a lot of work to be done in order to get your garden in prime shape for snow, ice, and whatever else this year’s winter throws your way. We’ve compiled a November checklist to help you prepare accordingly:
Tend to Your Grass
This time of year, your lawn is probably still mostly green. Before it turns yellow, there are several chores you should take care of. For one, fall is a great time to put down fertilizer. Fertilizing your lawn will give it the strength it needs to make it through the cold season. Use a fertilizer with high nitrogen content, if you can (nitrogen content should be higher than phosphate or potassium content, so, for example, a 25-5-5 fertilizer would work well). Remember, as long as your lawn is green, you should continue to keep it trimmed, but don’t scalp it any lower than 2 inches. Additionally, your lawn needs to be watered regularly until it yellows, and then about once a month after that. And don’t forget to rake up those leaves! Dead leaves are the perfect habitat for pests and disease.
Upkeep Your Garden
Though pulling up weeds and dead plants is a royal pain, it’s well worth the effort. Pests lay eggs to overwinter on dead or dying plants. Get em’ out of there! You may want to add some of this dead growth to a compost pile so you’ll have fresh compost come spring. Dead leaves are a great source of organic nutrients! If you’re growing squash or root vegetables, you can likely leave those in the ground a bit longer. Squash shouldn’t be picked until the first heavy frost, and some root vegetables (parsnips, for example) are sweeter after the ground cools.
Got weeds? Now is the best time to get rid of them. Weeds are often more vulnerable to sprays in the fall than they are in the summer. Whether you’re pulling them up or spraying them, it’s best to get weeding over with now.
Deciduous trees should continue to be watered regularly throughout the fall. For extra protection from winter weather conditions, deciduous trees (especially young trees) can be wrapped with a crepe-paper tree wrap, from their base up to where branches begin to form. The wrap can be removed come March or April.
Perrenial flowers should be mulched in mid or late November, and annuals can be cut down once they start to brown. Mulching perennial flowers will keep root temperatures consistent throughout the winter. Too much fluctuation can cause major root damage , and, in Virginia, winter temperature fluctuation is the norm! A capricious weather forecast can put your garden through a lot of stress.
Once these chores are finished, you can rest easy for the remainder of the season. That means you’ll have more time to enjoy the holidays and the gorgeous fall scenery! So, as daunting as fall garden chores may seem, it’s worth your while to get them done while you still have a pinch of summer’s warmth on your side. You’ll thank yourself later!