Winterizing Trees & Shrubs
Water all plants well before the first hard freeze if the fall has been dry.
Fertilize with a slow-acting product in late fall.
Mulch soil over root zones with a 2 to 4 inch layer of organic material.
Erect windbreaks, if needed; and tie lose evergreen branches together with twine or netting to prevent breakage from the weight of snow.
Wrap tender bark of trunks of young trees with tree wrap, 1/4 inch hardware cloth, commercial tree bark guards or tree shelters to repel rodents.
Winterizing Perennials & Bulbs
Let perennial plants die down to the ground naturally to allow them to store energy and nutrients in their roots for the winter.
Cut back and discard the dead aboveground parts to reduce the risk of disease and deny winter shelter to insect pests.
Mulch the soil to moderate the effects of freezing and thawing, and/or cover tender perennials and bulb beds with boughs cut from evergreens to trap snow for additional cover.
Protect bulbs that are located in the open from small animals by stretching plastic bird netting over the ground during the winter. Alternatively, line planting trenches with chicken wire or put individual bulbs in hardware cloth cages when planting bulbs in the fall
Roses described as “landscape roses” do not need any particular protection beyond the normal winter shrub protection. The timing and extent of protective measures for more fragile hybrid tea roses depends on how cold your winters are. Start winterizing hybrid teas just before the ground freezes, which usually occurs about a month or two after the first frost.
Where temperatures remain above 20° F hybrid teas need few special measures beyond adequate mulching. Spraying foliage with an anti-transpirant spray will minimize water loss from foliage during the cool months. If roses are growing in sites exposed to drying winter winds, wrap the plants or build a windbreak with natural burlap or white polyspun floating row cover.
Where temperatures fall as low as 10° to 15° F for 2 weeks or more at a time, begin winterizing roses after the first hard frost. Mound fresh, loose soil or compost 6 to 8 inches high around the base of each plant. Prune canes back only enough to prevent them from whipping about in the wind and to allow them to fit under a protective covering. Spray the bushes with an anti-transpirant spray and then spread 8 to 10 inches of organic mulch over the entire bed. Wrap the bushes with burlap or white polyspun floating row cover to limit the movement of canes in the wind and to keep the plants from drying out.
Detach climbing roses from their supports and bend them down to the ground. Carefully bunch the canes together ands peg them to the soil with wood or wire hoops of some kind. Finally, cover them completely with 4 to 6 inches of well-draining soil, compost or organic mulch such as wood chips.
Where temperatures fall below -15° F: Follow all the steps outlined above and enclose the bushes with shelters such as peach baskets, tarpaper cones, or plastic coverings made for this purpose.
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Winterizing Northern Lawns
As the days get shorter and cooler, grass growth slows and plants prepare for dormancy. While northern turfgrasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue and perennial rye actually relish cool weather, some winter precautions are in order:
Reduce mowing height from the 2 to 3 inches of summer to 1½ inches over the fall. The closer mowing removes older parts of grass blades made up of frost-sensitive cells. New, hardier “tillers” keep growing, but slowly. This treatment helps grass resist browning and matting in soggy winter weather.
Mow over the last thin layer of fallen leaves with a mulching mower. The confetti-like pieces of leaves that fall among and between the grass blades mulch the grass plants and help protect lawn soil.
Avoid walking on turf after the final mowing of the season if the soil is frozen. Brittle, frozen grass is easily damaged by foot traffic. The ice crystals that form inside cell membranes of grass foliage rupture cell walls when they are walked on.
Avoid walking on snow-covered turf. This compacts the snow and insulates the grass, keeping it cold even as the soil begins its natural warming. The grass can be smothered and sometimes develops a fungus disease called “snow mold.”