By Jennifer Fairfield, owner of The Garden Mill
(This is part two of this column. Part one published yesterday.)
Trees and Shrubs:
- To protect your evergreens from drying out in the winter wind, don’t create what I call “shrub mummies” by wrapping them entirely in burlap. The weight of the burlap, especially if coated with ice or snow, could cause damage. A barrier built with burlap or other heavy-duty fabric is a much better option. Get stakes in the ground now, while the ground is still soft. You can put the burlap up any time between now and when winter really sets in.
- For the most part, don’t prune trees and shrubs now. Pruning at this time of year could do more damage than good. The best time to prune most trees and shrubs is in the late winter – February to early March – though there are some exceptions. Early-blooming trees and shrubs should not be pruned until after they have bloomed in the spring, and you should prune dead or diseased branches on any tree or shrub as soon as you find them, no matter what time of year.
- Add mulch to your trees and shrubs now. Making sure they have a layer of about 3 or 4 inches of mulch will help protect the roots from temperature fluctuations throughout the winter. Don’t pile up mulch around the trunks – that just invites insects and disease. It also can cause the roots of the trees to grow too close to the surface of the soil, or even into the mulch, rather than down deeper, where they belong.
Lawn and Leaves:
- Grass is probably slowing down in growth at this point, so you shouldn’t need to mow much longer, but you do want to make sure that it’s only about 2 inches high going into winter.
- The other task for the mower at this time of year is in helping you deal with leaves. My lawn is still collecting leaves on a daily basis, and it’s not good to leave them there too long. But I don’t have the time (or back) to rake them all up, so using the mower to chop up the leaves and spread them around the lawn is a much easier way to handle them. If you blow them all in one direction and then run over them with the mower, you get finely chopped leaf mulch that adds nutrients to the lawn.
- Don’t forget to clean, sharpen, and oil your tools when you are all done outside for the season.
- Leave your birdbaths out as long as possible. If your birdbath can’t take the overnight freezing temps, you can still fill your birdbaths up during the day, and dump them out in the evening, until daytime temps start going below freezing. Then it’s time for a de-icer. De-icers allow you to provide a vital source of water for your birds all through the winter, without risking damaging your birdbath. We also carry a birdbath with a built-in heater that is temperature controlled, so all you have to do is keep it filled up.
- If you don’t feed your birds year-round, from now to next spring is the best time to do so. During the warmer months, the biggest source of food for most birds is insects. As it gets cold, and insects aren’t available, birds turn to vegetation for their food. But they need to eat a lot more to get the same amount of protein, and they need at least as much protein to help them get through the cold days and nights. This is where you come in. When you provide food for the birds, you help them keep from using up precious energy trying to find food. Just remember to clean the feeders regularly to help prevent the spread of disease.