Tips and tricks for preparing a winter-garden.
The summer was great for your yard. Your shrubs burst with color, the lawn was well-kempt, and you hosted many-a-barbeque on your patio. However, when the days get a bit darker, you scrape down and cover your grill and call it a season. Giving your yard a little post-solstice maintenance can make the difference between a beautiful spring and a back-breaking one. We’ve compiled a pre-frost to-do for you to make a healthy and happy winter garden. And hey, if you haven’t quite gotten to this list pre-frost, just wait for a mild weekend–not too hard to come by in Vancouver.
Canada’s southerly-west coast is considered a Zone 7. Plainly put, that means most native plant life will survive in temperatures as low as -5ºC, and enjoy a long growing season: from May until late October. However, your garden is likely host to a number of different plants, and some may require a little more attention during the cold months of winter. So take the following tips into consideration when you’re tending your garden beds…
Choose and sow frost-tolerant perennials
Perennials are great because they are reliable and low maintenance. When you’re tending your beds in late fall, try planting bulbs like hyacinths and tulips for a jump-start on your summer blooms. You can even get ahead on your veggie garden by sowing root crops or brassicas. They’ll bloom late into the fall season, and give you a head-start on spring.
Protect tender plants from frost
As mentioned above, non-native plants need a winter coat to make it through the chilly season. Roses are especially susceptible to frostbite. Protect your tender plants with a layer of mulch over their beds, or an inverted flower pot in the evenings. It doesn’t look great for the duration of winter, but your flowering plants will reward you with hearty, beautiful blooms come spring.
Prechill tulips and hyacinths for forcing indoors
If you don’t want to wait until May for your bulbs to open up, try pre-chilling tulip and hyacinth bulb in your fridge. This cool period mimics their normal dormancy period, and “forces” them to open a bit early. Pop them in the fridge for 12-16 weeks (just not near your fruits) in a mesh bag, and then move to a pot on your sill. Enjoy spring a few weeks early–by the last few weeks of winter we all crave a little green space in our lives. Not sure you want to take on pre-chilling? Plant crocus, grape hyacinths, snow drops, daffodils and early blooming tulips.
If you’ve invested in fruiting or ornamental trees, the dormant growing season is a great time to get them pruned up and ready to perform come the warmer months. Contrary to what you might feel about lopping off the new growth on your trees, pruning actually makes your plantlife hardier, fuller, and better able to produce beautiful growth.
Give your ornamental trees a quick spray
Apply dormant spray to ornamental trees in order to kill overwintering bugs, such as mites, or insect eggs that will hatch and wreak havoc come the warmer months. Just make sure to choose a time when the freezing temperature is consistent: spraying any green shoots could stunt the growth of the tree itself. We’ve done a round-up of our favorite, non-toxic sprays here.
Prune winter-flowering shrubs during or just after bloom
Pruning at the wrong time won’t usually hurt your plant in the long run, but it can affect how vigorously it blooms in the next season. The general rule is to prune in the dormant seasons, and also when the flowers on any given tree or shrub have started to fade. If you’re worried that you are cutting down too much of your tree or bush, remember that smaller, off season growths only serve to direct energy away from the parts of the plant that need it most. Don’t be shy: prune away. But keep an eye to the three Ds: design, discovery, and development.
Water your Christmas tree!
They drink A LOT. Especially when you first get it home, refill your tree stand at least twice a day. A well-hydrated tree means less needle shedding, which also means less vacuuming.
And the last thing we recommend? Order some seeds from an online catalogue. It gets you thinking about how you can organize your garden for the next growing season, and it will make sure that the colors and varieties you want are within reach for the spring growing season. We like everything that the team over at Floret is producing, as well as the catalogue of heritage varietals over at Johnny’s seeds.
We know that winter garden maintenance isn’t qute as glamourous and immediately rewarding as it’s warm, summer counterpart. But maintaining your garden in the colder months means a less gruelling Spring season, and a much higher return on the work you’ve put into your yard in the years previous. Throw on an extra coat and grab your clippers. The 2017 patio season thanks you in advance.