Clipper Staff Writer
LAYTON – Putting your garden to bed in the fall can be just as important as planting it in the spring.
Now that the temperature has dropped, many gardeners across the county are thinking about mulching, trimming back and otherwise getting their yards ready for winter. Though experts advise holding off a few months on any serious pruning, there are plenty of other things you can do to get ready for spring.
“As long as the ground isn’t frozen, now is the time,” said David Rice, coordinator at the Weber Basin Conservation Learning Garden.
In your flower beds, annuals that have already died can go into the compost pile. Any perennials that have gone brown and crunchy can be trimmed back enough to clean them up, but if they still look healthy it’s best to leave them alone for awhile.
“If you wait, you can be sure what’s dead,” he said.
Waiting is also a good rule of thumb when it comes to pruning back any trees or bushes. Rice advises waiting to do that until the coldest part of winter has past, usually in either February or March.
“Once people can see the leaves turning, some will get excited and think ‘Oh, I should start pruning,’” he said. “But it can put stress on the tree, and open it up for problems like bacteria when the tree really can’t do much about it because it’s hibernating. If you wait until the warm side of winter, the most stressful part of the season will have passed.”
Trees can help protect other parts of the garden as well. Their leaves make excellent mulch that can give more fragile plants an extra layer of insulation against the cold.
“If you need to, you can even make a little wire net so the wind doesn’t blow it away,” said Rice.
In vegetable gardens, mulch can help ensure fresh-from-the-garden carrots even after the snow falls.
“Leave your carrots in the ground and mulch over them,” he said. “As winter progresses, you can dig them up whenever you need.”
Despite the weather, you can also get started on spring planting. Any spring-blooming bulbs should go into the ground now in order to give them a head start on root growth, and spinach fans can add some seeds to their garden right now.
“They’ll germinate, then sit there and wait,” said Rice. “Once the weather gets warm, they’ll take off again.”
Sprinklers and tools
It’s also important to take care of the garden’s mechanical elements. Sprinkler systems should be blown out, either with air or a pressure release system, so you don’t risk having water freeze in the pipes.
This time of year is also a good opportunity to give any gardening tools a thin coating of lubricating oil.
“It helps keep things from getting rusty,” said Rice. “You have time now, and next spring they’ll be ready and waiting for you.”