Your Winter Garden

By Thomas Yannick

We never truly know what a North Carolina winter will bring. We could have flurries on Sunday and then be strolling down Main Street in t-shirts Monday afternoon. One day can drastically differ from the next. It is the unpredictable weather we have grown to know and love–no matter how inconvenient wide-ranging temperatures can be. Ahh North Carolina–how you keep us on our toes. But nevertheless, we should prepare our lawns and gardens for winter days ahead. Here are some tips and tricks to get your ready for the frost and beyond.

Winter Maintenance

Remove fallen leaves from around the base of any rose bushes which suffered from rust or blackspot during the summer to reduce the chance of reinfection next year.

Continue to lift dahlia tubers, begonias, and gladiolus corms to store dry over the winter months. A corm is a rounded underground storage organ in these plants which consist of a swollen stem base covered with scale leaves. Remove the dead foliage before storing.

Cut back the yellowing foliage of herbaceous perennials and lift and divide overcrowded clumps to maintain their health. Keep planting perennials.

Cut a few stems of holly with berries to make decorative Christmas garlands. Now is the time to make them, before the birds eat all the berries. Stand the stems in a bucket of water in a sheltered spot where birds cannot get to them.

Insulate your outdoor containers from frosts using hessian or bubble wrap held in place with garden twine.

Raise pots off the ground for the winter by using bricks or ‘pot feet’ to prevent waterlogging.

Encourage hungry birds into your garden by investing in bird baths and bird feeders. Our feathered friends will keep pest numbers down and sing sweet songs on a bleak winter’s day.

Protect roses from windrock (wind’s effect on plants that results in distablizing any loosened root systems) by pruning them by one-third to half their height. This will stop them swaying in strong wind and prevent roots coming loose in the soil.

Vegetables

Lift parsnips after the first frosts as their flavor will have sweetened.

Prepare a perennial vegetable bed which can be planted up with rhubarb crowns and asparagus crowns.

Prepare a bed for planting autumn garlic. Improve heavy soils with compost or organic matter before planting.

Place a scaffold plank on the ground along the main access route into your plot to allow access without compacting the soil as you walk across it.

Spread fresh manure across the surface of your vegetable beds to rot down over winter.

Stake top-heavy brassicas and draw up some soil around the base of stems to prevent wind from rocking the plant and causing damage to the roots.

Check stored onions and garlic and remove any rotting bulbs immediately. The neck of the bulb is usually the first area to rot. Try using onion bags to improve air flow.

Check stored potatoes and remove any that are rotting. Use hessian sacks to store your potatoes as this will allow the crop to breathe.

Divide mature clumps of rhubarb once they are dormant.

Fruits

Plant currant bushes while they are dormant. Plant raspberry canes now for a delicious home-grown crop.

Tidy up strawberry plants by cutting off any dead leaves and removing runners. Prune pear and apple trees anytime between now and February.

Do not prune your plum trees now as they will be susceptible to the silver leaf fungus, wait until midsummer.

Apply grease bands to the trunks of fruit trees to prevent wingless female winter moths climbing the trunks and laying their eggs in the branches.

Remove the top netting from fruit cages–in the case that we will actually get heavy snow– it will not sag.

Check fruits in storage and promptly remove any showing signs of rotting or disease.

Lawncare

Aerate your lawn now. There is still time to do it before winter really sets in. You can either use a lawn aerator or if you are in need of a workout: insert a garden fork at regular intervals and lean it back slightly to let air in. 

Continue to clear fallen leaves off the lawn to keep it healthy.

Edge your lawn. This is easy to do in the winter months once beds are clear. Lawn edging creates a neat and tidy appearance and makes maintenance easier throughout the year.

A well-kept lawn and garden is an uplifting way to bring brightness into the dark winter months. It is also a great way to keep neighborhoods lively and inviting. Are you proud of your garden? Send us some pictures! We would love to see what is growing in your part of the woods: Facebook.com/YourKernersvilleMagazine or tag us on Instagram @Kernersville.Magazine. Happy Planting!

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