Mark’s Top 10 Tips for Protecting Your Garden Investment
My fall to-do list below may provide the perfect excuse to get outside and enjoy the fresh, late autumn air. It is my goal to help save your investment in a great-looking garden next year.
1 PLANT TULIPS. If you forgot to plant them earlier, or you just didn’t get around to it, now is the perfect time to plant tulips for a great spring show of colour. Truth is, most spring-flowering bulbs need more time in the soil before the winter sets its frosty claws into it. Not so tulips. Plant as long as you can move the soil with a trowel or shovel. If your garden soil is frozen, the soil near the foundation of your home likely is not. Look for the new Canada 150 tulip: red and white, in a ‘flame-like’ pattern. There will be over 300,000 planted this fall in Ottawa for the spring Tulip Festival, why not join in the celebration? It is available at Home Hardware.
2 WILT-PRUF. This ready-touse liquid is magic on boxwood, yews, cedars exposed to wind and road-salt-spray, rhododendrons, and your fresh-cut Christmas tree. Wilt-Pruf is an ‘anti-desiccant’ that provides an invisible layer of protection to all broad-leaved evergreens come winter. The humidity in our winter air drops to less than 10 per cent some days, causing the moisture in the foliage of tender evergreens to evaporate. The result is browning in the extreme. Your Christmas tree will benefit from an application of Wilt-pruf, reducing needle drop and fire hazard.
3 HILL UP YOUR ROSES. Mound triple mix to a height of 50 cm around the base of each hybrid tea, floribunda, grandiflora and miniature rose bush. A plastic rose collar will help you do an even better job. Bags of triple mix are available at your garden retailer.
4 RAKE THE LAST OF THE FALLEN LEAVES off your lawn and into your garden. Worms will pull the leaves down into the soil come spring. Do not rake them into bags and take them to the curb. Putting them on your garden is less work, saves you money and it is good for your garden. Trust me.
5 CLEAN YOUR BIRD FEEDERS. Then fill them. We are never as inclined to clean our bird feeders in the winter. It is a nuisance. So do it now, using a stiff brush and soapy water. Then fill them with quality bird seed and note that the cheap stuff mostly ends up kicked out of the feeder onto the ground. Songbirds are not stupid.
6 FEED YOUR LAWN. The most important application of the year occurs in the fall, but only when you apply it. If you haven’t done it, it is not too late. Come spring your lawn will thank you by greening up quickly with much greater resistance to snow mould and brown-out. For long-lasting results, use a quality product with slow-release nitrogen.
7 TURN YOUR COMPOST pile, or the contents of your compost bin, one more time before hard frost. This introduces oxygen and speeds decomposition. You want that.
8 DIG AND DIVIDE PERENNIALS. Hosta plants that have been established for five years or more lend themselves to being divided up and replanted around the yard. This is true of monarda, day lilies, Shasta daisies and any plant with a fleshy root.
9 PRUNE EVERGREENS and plan on using some of the limbs for Christmas decoration. This is true also for fruiting plants like trumpet vine, hardy holly, many roses that produce colourful hips, small-fruiting crab apples, etc. Look for anything that is attractive in your yard and go nuts.
10 WRAP BURLAP AROUND CEDARS AND EVERGREENS that are exposed to wind. Two layers of inexpensive burlap around all evergreens will help to prevent snow damage (from the weight of snow), salt spray (from the melted snow on a nearby road, especially on the east side of the road) and sun scald in late winter (when the sun reflects off a clean, white layer of snow onto evergreen foliage).
Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author and broadcaster. Get his free monthly newsletter at markcullen.com. Look for his new best seller, The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and Facebook. markcullen.com