How do you prepare for a Canadian winter? Here are some fall dos and don’ts, plus tips to help your garden get a jump-start on spring.
It’s not too late to plant perennials, trees, shrubs and other hardy plants. In fact, autumn is actually the best season to get many hardy plants into the ground. It is also a great time to divide daylilies and hostas.
Another fall ritual is planting bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, ornamental alliums, crocuses and snowdrops (Galanthus), for spring colour. Tuck them into the ground before hard frosts come and choose big bulbs for larger flowers. Plant in well-drained soil at least six weeks before soil freezes; start with smaller ones (such as snowdrops and crocuses), as they don’t keep as well, followed by larger species such as daffodils and tulips.
DO cut back finished annuals, diseased plants, or any that may take over if allowed to self-seed freely.
DO cut back peony, iris and hosta foliage, which can harbour pests and diseases.
DO Clear Out Leaves, Dead Branches, Weeds and Perennials. Trimming perennials and cleaning up leaves will avoid future garden problems such as insects, slugs and snails, and powdery mildew on roses and apple trees. Remove dead and diseased branches from trees (but don’t prune at this time). Weeding in the fall will help to limit the number that will grow back in the spring. You can add all this garden debris to your compost pile for future use; remember to avoid using diseased material.
DO rake and remove leaves from the lawn every week; grass needs sunlight in fall for strong growth in spring.
DO continue to water if the weather is dry; perennials and woody types-especially newly planted ones and evergreens, including broadleaf types such as euonymus-need moisture to survive winter. Before freezing, make sure you turn off all your water sources and store the hoses in sheds.
DO enrich your Soil with Compost. Fall is the best time of the year to add compost or grass clippings to your garden soil. Incorporate them after the first hard frost (but before the ground freezes). You’ll find that your soil’s condition will be much improved in the spring.
DO use winter mulch to help soil maintain a more even temperature. This helps plants survive where alternating periods of freezing and thawing don’t provide consistent snow cover. Lay cut up boughs from Christmas trees on beds to trap snow that might otherwise blow away.
DO Plant and Trim Shrubs and Trees in the Fall. The early fall is the very best time to plant broad-leaved and needle-leaved evergreen shrubs and trees. After mid-October, plant deciduous trees. This gives the plants a chance to become established in their new homes by sending out the roots they need for their nourishment. To protect against the cold and snow, you may want to wrap their branches in burlap for protection during their first winter.
DO Plant bulbous Asiatic and Oriental lilies in late fall to ensure flower bud set. When planting is delayed until spring they may not get enough chilling and come up blind, with no flowers.
DO Examine Container Plants. Have your pot plants grown too large for their containers? Clues are soil that’s become compacted and roots that are creeping out of the bottom of the pot. The fall is the time to repot these plants.
DO collect branches with berries, crop gourds and pumpkins, cut sunflowers or dry wheat and create your own arrangements for a centrepiece or for a container in front of your door.
DON’T leave flower beds bare-mulch with fallen leaves. If possible, shred leaves first using a lawn mower.
DON’T cut back perennials too early. Leave some standing through winter, as seed heads and coloured foliage can be beautiful, while seeds feed migrating birds.