- Author: Jan Rhoades
After a busy spring filled with garden preparation and early planting, followed by a summer of weed fighting and too many tomatoes, and, finally, an autumn of processing the bountiful harvest, it seems fitting that a backyard gardener should get a long winter’s rest to enjoy the fruits of such labor. Right? Well, somewhat right. Though there is not so much to do in the garden during the winter, there are still some very important maintenance chores and some little tasks that will make for a better garden come spring. So, put on that old jacket and wooly hat…time to put the garden to bed!
Pull up old vines and plants that are not producing. Insect pests that feed on these plants in the summer have probably laid their eggs on them. These eggs will overwinter and hatch in the spring, hungry and ready to eat your new plantings. Other pests, such as squash bugs, use old plant debris to live in over the winter…so, best to do a thorough clean-up. If these old plants are not diseased, they can be worked into the garden soil to add valuable organic matter. Fall is an excellent time to amend garden soil. Well-rotted manure, compost, fertilizer and leaves can all be incorporated before the ground freezes, enhancing beneficial microorganisms and soil insects.
If you still have root crops such as beets, carrots, parsnips and turnips, they can be mulched with straw or leaves and dug up as needed. Some say these vegetables turn sweeter after the ground cools. Kale, chard, cabbage and spinach can also withstand winter cold. Be sure to mulch around them to protect their roots and preserve soil moisture. Winter squash and pumpkins should be harvested before heavy frost damages them. If you planted garlic this fall, it will need regular watering and a good layer of mulch.
Annual flowers need to be pulled up and composted. Perennials should be cut back and mulched when the ground has become quite cold. Good mulching materials include straw, pine needles and leaves.
Raspberries and blackberries also need to be cut back. The canes that bore fruit should be pruned to ground level and mulching around the base of these bramble fruits is also good. Berries need water in the winter if there are dry spells. Strawberries also need a thick layer of mulch to protect them.
Trees and shrubs need water during the winter, too. Give them ample water through the fall and then water about once a month during the winter. Watering in the winter is tricky – try to pick a day when temperatures are above freezing, and water early in the day so water can be absorbed before temperatures drop at night. If you have fruit trees, remember that dormant spraying, pruning and other special treatments, such as spraying for leaf curl, are important winter tasks.
So, you can see, no rest for the weary gardener. But, one of the pleasures of these longer nights is hunkering down in front of the fire to spend some quality time with those gorgeous, enticing seed catalogues. Spring is just around the corner!
- Author: Paula Sayer
Winter gardens don't have to be lifeless and barren. While they will never rival the riot of color of Fall, with golden leaves, and the last hurrah of flowering pansies and chrysanthemums, there can still be interest and beauty even in the coldest months.
The garden in winter is altogether different, with silhouettes and structure highlighted by angled sunlight especially in the morning or evening. Pops of colorful berries are more appreciated , as well as seedpods and grasses. Of course evergreen foliage is always a treat especially when contrasted with trees and shrubs with interesting bark or textures.
I haven't mentioned bulbs here, even though ones like Snowdrops and Iris often bloom through the snow.. Also since Inyo Mono counties have a wide range of hardiness zones, you should check plants are suitable for your area.
Firstly think of where to place plants to make the most of your regional conditions and your winter habits-both indoors and out. Consider the views of the winter garden you'll see from indoors, drinking your morning coffee or resting in your comfy chair.
Birches are on the edge of their comfort zone here as they don't tolerate drought well but in the right area the white bark of a birch offers a striking contrast to a backdrop of evergreens. Paperbark Maple’s curls of copper colored bark peel off from all over and the green leaves of summer turn into an eye catching cinnamon shade in the fall.
Consider also low growing conifers as ground cover, either for their shapes, color or contrast. Western natives such as Agave and Yucca can add contrast with green spikes and look dramatic (if dangerous) when partly filled with snow.
Seed heads and seed pods
Many plants will turn brown and dry as fall progresses. However for some plants the dried flower heads create the interest , for example shrubs, such as Hydrangeas, have great dried flower heads. Perennials can also sometimes have showy dried flower heads, such as fall flowering Sedum. Seed pods and foliage can also be attractive in winter. Dried seeds, flowers and foliage looks best in gardens with persistent snow coverage in winter, but will also work in any garden where you can contrast them against a backdrop Varieties of Echinacea and Rudbeckia make great seed heads and attract winter feeding birds, so don't cut them back until the spring to get the most interest from these plants.