Winter Garden Care

Many people see the fall and winter as a time to close down the garden and wait until the spring to start up gardening activities again. However, there are plenty of things you can do throughout the winter months to preserve the health of your garden:

  • Watering: As long as the ground is not frozen and can accept water, you should water at least your evergreens. Most other plants are fairly dormant by now and not using much water. Evergreens, on the other hand, keep their needles all winter and can lose water through those needles. Keeping water supplied to the roots on a weekly basis as long as possible into the fall and winter season will help reduce stress on those evergreens.
  • Using the Right Ice Melt: If rock salt (sodium chloride) drains or drifts into the soil alongside the paths, it can harm your plants and rob your soil of nutrients. Ice-melt products made of potassium chloride, magnesium chloride or calcium chloride are slightly less harmful; they are less corrosive and sometimes even contains nutrients that plants can use.
  • Snow and ice on trees and shrubs: When snow piles up on evergreens, try to gently brush it off and don’t shake the branches.  If the snow is frozen on the branch and will not brush off easily, it is best to let it melt naturally, to avoid damage to the tree or shrub. If tree limbs break due to the weight of ice or snow, remove the broken limbs as soon as the weather permits.  The tree’s wound will heal better in spring if it has clean edges instead of ragged tears.
  • Warm spells in winter: Sometimes in the middle of winter, we suddenly get a few warm days. For the most part, this is not a big problem, but you may need to check on a couple of things. If you covered your roses with rose cones, you may need to ventilate the cone to prevent heat from building up inside. The same should be done with cold frames. If it is a warm, sunny day, the temperatures may be rising in the cold frame more than you expect. Remember to close vents as the temperature drops again at night.
  • Seed orders: If you order seeds from a catalog, get your order in by the end of January.  Early orders help insure that you get the seeds you want and that you have them in time to start them indoors if you want.

Written by Seth Berman

Seth Berman

Seth Berman is a master gardener from Cambridge, Massachusetts

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