First step is to get rid of the leaves and debris that have collected in the beds over the past month. Wet, decomposing leaves left all winter are not good for plant health. Yes, composted leaves @ bases combined with some of your final grass clippings can be used in moderation for some roots exposed this season from shallow planting…but as a rule you keep winter over diseases at bay with leaf removal. This is especially important with rose varieties. Once the leaves are down, blow them away from the branch framework.
I routinely cutback all leaves and stem material from my perennials. This too gives the plants a chance to reserve their energy for roots and dormancy. By removing the leaves and debris, you also help to eliminate homes for the rodents to settle in for the winter and feast upon your plant roots.
As for shrub care…I do not prune any early spring flowering plants as they may be setting up buds for next season. I do hard prune the late bloomers like the Rose of Sharon when customers are hoping to re-size along with many in the cypress family. Generally I just do some spot pruning for strays to ward off winter damage. There are many different thoughts on hydrangea care this time of year. I have had success in this region with cutting back the macrophylas leaving 12-18 inch branches for support next season. Some folks like to wrap these with winter frame and burlap. I am not so sure that practice is worth the effort as our finicky spring weather brings us tremendous temperature oscillations. Bud setting can be destroyed quickly with a late cold snap and loss of blooms result in the summer.
The jury is out on winter fertilizer…but I routinely apply a basic 10-10-10 and water it in after my clean up. For what it is worth…I am enriching my soil base for next season with the slow release granular.
The plus side of making the effort to fully winterize your gardens: You spend far less time on messy after winter clean up and get out there earlier in the spring to see the greens popping…….apply your annual mulch base…and you are ready to go for your season! So come on…take these last glorious days of autumn to get moving and enjoy your garden more next season!
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