It is that time of the year when we need to really get going and put our flower beds, trees and shrubs to bed for the winter. We can not forget our fruiting plants either. Did you know that your strawberries already have their buds all ready for next year? This is why after a tough winter or if we forget to cover them up, we have fewer berries the following year.
Strawberries are one of those types of plants that if they are covered too soon, then we can smother them and kill them. If we wait too long, the cold temperatures as well as the freezing and thawing in the fall and spring, will also wipe some of them out. You sure don't want to use too heavy of mulch. Hay sometimes can become way too heavy while straw seems to be a great alternative. We have found that in the spring, pushing the straw off of the bed and then coming back and mowing back over the straw, blowing it back into the bed, will help keep not only the moisture in the soil but also alleviate a lot of the weeds that can grow up in a strawberry bed. Leaves seem to work okay on strawberry beds but can become so pressed down and compacted that it may smother some strawberries in the springtime.
Wrapping our young trees to help protect them from cracking and sometimes even from rodent (rabbit) damage will also need to be completed now; however, keep in mind that there are several alternatives to what you can use. We just need to remember that for the health of the tree-whatever kind of tree it is-we need to get out into the garden in April and remove that tree wrap as soon as possible so we don't damage the bark on young trees. Cracking happens on younger trees when their bark is not as tough as older trees. The sun heats up one side of the tree trunk-from reflecting off of the snow-then the sun goes down, causing the sap in the tree at that particular spot to cool and possibly cause cracking. There are many different kinds of products available and they all work very well. You can even use tinfoil. You just need to remember to put the shiny side out and use a little duct tape or electrical tape to keep it in place. If you really have a hard time with rodents or rabbits, in particular, eating away at some plants, you may want to put in place some fencing or chicken wire to help keep them at bay.
Our flower beds are ready to go to sleep for the winter as well; simply mulching them is okay. You can let some, if not all, of the remaining parts of the plants to stay in the garden to allow them to catch snow which is probably the best mulch there is in keeping our plants safe from winter's harm. If you have had a plant or two that had a disease problem, you may want to prune these out and dispose of their plant material out of the garden so you don't spread disease throughout the garden. I usually leave leaves fall and also rake in more leaves into my perennial flower gardens in order to keep them warm for the winter. They seem to be able to handle any matting that may occur from the leaves and it works great for mulch later in the growing season as well.
So remember not to dispose of those leaves - you may know of someone that could use them in their garden!
For more information about gardening, you can email me at Stephanie@starpoint.net