10 Common Winter Gardening Mistakes
Avoid common gardening mistakes this winter that put your plantings at risk.
Planting Too Late
Shrubs and trees are able to go into the ground later, but to obtain the best winter survival rates, have all plants in the ground at least 6 weeks before soil typically freezes in your area. Late additions can result in huge losses come spring, as the freezing and thawing of soil pushes plants out, exposing crowns.
Pruning plants causes them to produce new growth, which is more delicate and vulnerable to freezing temperatures. Wait to prune shrubs until spring, when all risk of frost is gone. Only at that point should you remove any dead winter branches. From then on, the ideal time to get pruning done is late August. That way, plants have time to toughen up before the cold weather.
Not Watering New Trees
Trees planted in the fall will need consistent watering as they enter their first winter, and throughout a snowless winter. In case winter brings about frozen soil but no snow, go out and water any time there are above-freezing temperatures. If using a hose during winter is an issue, consider bringing water to the tree with a water bag in a cart or wheelbarrow.
Failing to Deadhead Self-Sowing Plants
Aggressive self-sowers in your landscape can be gorgeous in bloom, but if allowed to go to seed they can be a gardener’s nightmare. Be sure to clip seed heads on those heavy self-sowing plants. Plants that tend to self-sow heavily include joe-pye weed, goldenrod and black-eyed susans.
Winter mulch around new additions can be a gardener’s best friend. The extra layer of protection helps prevent frost heave around new plants that tend to lack a solid root system, which is important in keeping them anchored in soil that is constantly freezing and thawing. To insulate roots, apply a 2-inch-thick layer around the base of the plants.
Disregarding a Pre-Snow Clean-up
If you live in a snowy winter climate, you’re going to want to clean up the garden before early snowfalls arrive. By doing this, you not only make things easier on yourself, but also reduce winter resting places for pests and diseases that go into hiding once the snow flies.
Not Destroying Veggie Crops
It is very important that you destroy spent vegetable crops — especially ones that hosted problem pests like Mexican bean beetles. Composting them is not enough, unless you know it heats enough to destroy pests and eggs. The safest thing to do is to dispose of infested plants and fallen leaves in bags that are put out for garbage pick up.
Failing to Use Frost Blankets
For those that still have a garden that is actively producing when the first frost hits, it is downright silly not to invest in season-extending equipment to keep those winter veggies coming. Inexpensive kits are available, and they’re easy to install.
Letting Grass Grow Too Long
In snowy climates, grass that isn’t mowed before winter is more prone to snow mold. Definitely try to get that one last cut in before winter snow arrives, if at all possible. In addition, try to stay off the lawn once the ground freezes. Frozen grass is more fragile and prone to breaking, which can damage individual grass crowns.
Failing to Protect Vulnerable Trees and Shrubs
Be sure to wrap shrubs and small trees with burlap to protect them against freezing temperatures. Plants that are most at risk include evergreens prone to winter burn and those with borderline hardiness. Before wrapping evergreens, consider spraying them with an anti-transpirant. You can also prevent rodents chewing on tree trunks by placing mouse bait that is enclosed in a protective container near the base of the plant before adding the burlap. Tree guards around young tree trunks, or surrounding shrubs with mesh are ways to protect against rabbits, mice and voles chewing on bark and weakening plants.