Cool, crisp autumn days mean it's time to get out into the garden and tuck your plants in for the winter. Fluctuating temperatures, drying winds and snowfalls that come and go wreak havoc with perennials and shrubs. Now is the time to take steps to help your plants survive the winter. Here's how:
1 Discard diseased debris
Guard against the spread of disease next year by discarding the leaves and stems of plants that showed signs of fungal diseases or insect damage during the growing season. Make sure you destroy these or put them out to the garbage; never add them to the compost.
2 Let stems and grasses stand tall
Fight your tidy instincts. The stems of perennials like black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower, sedums and grasses add winter interest to the garden, their seeds providing food to wintering birds. Most importantly, the stems trap snow, helping to insulate plant roots over the winter. If you must clean up, remove the leaves of hostas, daylilies and Siberian irises – these tend to turn into a soggy, scraggly mess by spring.
3 Topdress with compost
Keep your plants healthy by adding a layer of compost to the surface of garden beds. Compost acts like a multi-vitamin for plants, providing nutrients that are released slowly at a rate that plants are able to absorb. If you don't make your own compost, contact your municipality; many cities and communities offer free compost to residents.