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Winding down for Winter

 Winding Down for Winter

By the time the frost starts covering the lawn at the end of the season, many gardeners-like their plants-­are spent. It is all too easy to ignore outdoor chores, but by accomplishing a few simple chores before those first flakes fly, you can ensure an easier start to next spring.  JayDee Gunnell, USU Horticulture Agent gives the following suggestions.
 
Perennials
Let the foliage die down on perennials before cutting them back to the ground. This allows more energy to be stored in the roots for next year's growth.
Many perennials become crowded and may benefit from being divided every 4-5 years. As a general rule, perennials that bloom in the springshould be dug and divided in the fall. Perennials that bloom in the fall should be dug and divide in the spring. Divide and replant perennials 3-4 weeks before the ground freezes. This allows time for the plants to "settle" into their new homes.
Some perennials aren't quite adapted to our cold winters. We call these perennials "tender." Foliage should still be allowed to die down with tender perennials (after the first killing frost).
Carefully dig tender perennials such as tuberous begonias, dahlias, gladiolas, and canna lilies. Allow the underground plant structures to cure (dry) in a warm area for 1-2 weeks.
Afterwards, store them in a cool, dry area away from danger of frost (usually 45-50 degrees). Use packing material such as vermiculite, sawdust or sphagnum for storing these plants. Dahlias and tuberous begonias tend to get a bit too dry. Placing a cup full of water in with the tubers will add some humidity.
 
Gardens
Remove all leaves and other litter from the vegetable garden. This eliminates convenient hiding place for insect pests. Roto-til the garden and incorporate composted plant material into the soil.
 
Compost
Compost comes in all shapes and sizes. The best compost (such as leaves) is free. Incorporating organic matter is the best thing you could do for your soil.
Hint: Running the lawn mower over the leaves helps speed up the composting process.
When adding brown material to the soil, (such as ground up leaves), add nitrogen to aid the soil microbes in breaking it down. A general rule of thumb is for every 1" of brown material in a 100-square-foot area, add 1 pound (2 cups) of ammonium sulfate (21-0-0).
 
Trees & Shrubs
Young trees with thin bark are susceptible to winter sun injury. Protect young tree trunks by wrapping them with white tree wrap available at any local nursery or garden center. The white wrap helps reflect the sun from the tender trunks. Remember to remove the wrap in the spring to allow circulation.
Save your energy for spring when it comes to pruning. In our area, it is best to wait until the coldest part of winter has passed before pruning your trees and shrubs, usually after mid-February.
 
Lawns
Late fall (late Oct. - early Nov.) is the best time of year to fertilize your lawn. Apply a quick-release nitrogen fertilizer after the last mowing. Even though the grass doesn't appear to be growing, energy is being shipped down to the root system for storage. This stored energy produces early greening next spring.
 
Irrigation/Sprinklers
Many homeowners utilize secondary water in irrigating their landscape. Now is the time to clean out filters and blow out the sprinkler lines to prevent the valves from freezing.
Even though the secondary water is turned off, it is still important to deep-water landscape plants, (such as evergreens), especially if warm weather persists.
 
Miscellaneous Items
Use burlap or other soft wrapping material to tie up columnar evergreens or other plants that tend to breaking or bend under snow loads.
Remember, when it does start to snow and freeze, use de-icing materials sparingly. Many of these materials are salt derivatives and can "bum" your plant material if you use too much.

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