Regardless of which hardiness zone you live in, fall weather can pack a punch. Whether it?s sudden wind storms or plunging temperatures, your garden needs to be prepared. Check out some of the following tips to get your garden in top shape for the cold season ahead.
Keep Your Soil Moist
If you?ve had a dry summer, it?s always beneficial to give your garden a thorough watering before cold weather sets in. Cooler fall temperatures reduce evaporation, which helps water absorb into the ground more easily than in the heat of summer.
Moist soil is ideal during cold snaps because it holds heat longer and insulates roots better than dry soil. Just be careful not to overwater; very wet soils can promote rot and disease.
Mulch Your Beds
Another excellent way to keep heat and moisture in your soil is to apply a good layer of mulch to any exposed areas in the fall. This will also help protect any tender surface roots.
One of the easiest methods of mulching is to leave plant debris on the ground. Any fallen leaves can be left on top of your soil, as well as the remains of any annual or perennial plants that have died back for the year.
Many other types of mulch also work well, check out these great mulch choices for your yard.
Cover Tender Plants
Plants that are borderline hardy in your climate zone often need to be wrapped or covered before freezing temperatures start.
You can use any fabric that breathes for wrapping, such as burlap, commercial frost blankets or your old blankets from home. Landscape Ontario has helpful step-by-step instructions on how to wrap a plant.
If you have smaller plants that don?t need a full wrapping, such as vegetables, you can use a fabric row cover instead. Row cover is a light material that?s sold at most garden centers. It can be placed directly over your tender plants and weighted down on the edges with rocks, bricks or staples. You can also install short hoops over your plants for the fabric to rest on. PVC or other thin, flexible materials are good for hoops.
Protect Container Plants
Plants grown in containers are less cold tolerant than plants in the ground. The limited amount of growing medium in a pot has far less temperature buffering capacity, so plunging temperatures can spell disaster for potted plants.
Bring potted plants indoors for the cold season when possible. Even moving them into your garage or other non-heated space may be enough protection, depending on the plant and your hardiness zone.
If you need to leave a container plant outside, at least move it to a protected location, such as up against your house or under dense trees. Wrap it well in fabric, and remember to wrap the pot as well. Containers can easily crack during cold weather when left to the elements.
Don?t Fall Prune
Do you have any plants that consistently have tip damage in the spring from cold damage over winter? You can avoid this by simply not pruning them in the fall. This year?s growth will take the brunt of the cold and protect the core of your cold-sensitive plants.
Tuck Your Veggies in for Winter
Many root vegetables like leeks, parsnips, carrots, beets and garlic overwinter well when they?re left in the ground and covered for the cold season.
You can cover them with straw, fabric row covers, dry fallen leaves or other dry material or fabric. Avoid covering with extra soil or anything that will absorb excess water and promote rot. It?s also beneficial to allow the soil to remain somewhat dry. This reduces the chances of excess water in the soil freezing and heaving, which can damage your crops.
Windbreaks are typically tall, dense plantings of trees and/or shrubs. These block strong winds, which helps moderate temperature changes in your yard and prevents physical damage to outdoor plants.
Windbreaks can also lower heating costs for your home. It?s estimated that winds during the cold season can account for up to 30 percent of your heating bills. These winds can be significantly reduced with an effective windbreak.
Permaculture and Sanity has a great description of how to design and establish a windbreak.
Artificial structures, such as fences, sheds and walls, also make excellent windbreaks.
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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.
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How to Protect Your Fall Garden from Cold Weather & Strong Winds