Brace Yourself

I hate to say it, but to quote Eddard Stark, “Winter is coming.”  This week’s cooler weather has got me thinking about changing leaves, the smell of wood smoke, and frosty mornings.  With the changing of the seasons, there are a number of things you can do now to prepare your landscape for winter and give your landscape a boost in the spring.

Raise the mower one-half to one inch during fall. This helps the grass increase leaf area. More leaf area capturing sunlight leads to more stored food in grass roots as winter arrives. The lawn will also become denser as leaf area expands, which helps prevent weeds from establishing during the grass’s dormant season.  Also, fall is a good time to fertilize cool-season grasses.

Sow a cover crop on your garden.  Now is the time of year that you are probably getting the last few summer vegetables from your garden.  Put your garden to bed for winter with a blanket of winter rye, clover, or a cover crop mix.  Cover crops add nutrients back into your soil, prevent erosion, and help break up compacted soils.  They’re easy to plant too!  Just till, seed, and rake.

Top your compost pile with a thick layer of leaves or straw during the fall and winter. This simple step accomplishes two things: It helps prevent excess moisture from building up and insulates the pile so that it maintains a higher internal temperature. Also continue to turn the pile during cold weather to help keep temperatures consistent.

Start cleaning out flower beds.  Now is the time to start removing annuals from spring and summer that are past their prime.  It is also a good time to mulch perennials to help insulate them during the winter.  Also, fall pansies make a great choice for planting where you remove summer annuals.  They will add some color to your landscape this fall, then go dormant during the winter, and then in mid-March they will come back to life to greet the spring with some welcome color.

Follow these four tips to get started preparing for winter.  Check back later for more fall gardening tips.  Winter doesn’t mean you have to stop gardening.