Get cracking before the big freeze arrives

Killer frosts and freezing ground means that it is time to do any last minute yard work. If it is put off too much longer it could be too late.

Killer frosts and freezing ground means that it is time to do any last minute yard work. If it is put off too much longer it could be too late.

Water levels have gone down since the overabundance of rain earlier in the year. Soil appears to be moist in shady areas and very dry out in the open. Take time to water the dry areas before they freeze. Not all plants are dormant and some will take up extra moisture. Extra fall moisture is essential to evergreens that transpire — release moisture — all winter. The more moisture that is stored within the plant in the fall, the less likely the needles are to dry out and turn brown.

Placing a slow trickling hose at the drip line of evergreens will allow the plant to absorb as much moisture as possible going into winter. Excess moisture will ensure that the soil surrounding the roots will freeze and the plant will stay dormant when the weather rises above freezing.

Many gardeners over winter their cedars and upright junipers in a covering of burlap. Burlap or any breathable fabric will allow the plant to breathe while removing the direct rays of the sun, slowing down transpiration.

If the evergreens are well watered in the fall and early in the spring a covering is not usually necessary. That being said, a material covering also protects plants from deer, moose and elk. If the animals can’t reach the plant they can’t eat it.

Tender shrubs such as tea roses need to be insulated from the extreme cold of winter. Cut the tea roses back to a few good canes that are approximately six-inches (15-cm) tall. Cover the plant with a thick mulch such as peat moss, clean straw or leaves. The mulch can be kept in place by a cardboard box, chicken wire or a specially designed topper.

Remember when covering plants the outcome should be pleasing to the eye as it will be visible for the next six months.

Semi-hardy shrub roses can be cut back and treated like a tea rose or they can be left intact and the base of the plant covered in a six-inch (15-cm) layer of mulch. A number of the canes will die over winter but they can be pruned out in the spring. Spring pruning will not affect the number of flowers produced as roses bloom on new growth.

Drop tender vines such as grapes to the ground and cover them with at least six inches (15 cm) of mulch. People do have success leaving their tender vines upright on trellises but they have the plants placed in a warmer micro climate. Grapes bloom and fruit on second year wood. If the top growth winterkills there will be few if any flowers or fruit the following season.

Remove all fallen leaves and fruit from plants that had diseases this season.

Extra work now will help remove the chance of the plants being re-infected next season.

Blow the water out of all underground sprinklers and waterlines that are in danger of freezing. Empty and store all garden hoses.

Take in, clean and store all garden tools.

Remove and store any planters and ornaments that do not overwinter in the garden.

A few hours outside on a cool sunny day is much better than trying to accomplish everything once the snow starts to fall.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist and educator that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be contacted at www.igardencanada.com or your_garden@hotmail.com

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