By the time the gardening season winds down, many gardeners, like their lackluster plants, are spent. It is all too easy to ignore the work that waits outside. But by accomplishing a few simple chores before winter takes over, you can ensure healthier and happier plants next spring.
· Flowers - Many perennials become crowded and may benefit from being divided every four to five years. As a general rule, perennials that bloom in the spring should be dug and divided in the fall. Perennials that bloom in the fall should be dug and divided in the spring. Dig perennials three to four weeks before the ground freezes.
· Trees - Tree trunks can be damaged by winter sun from both the south and west. Protect young tree trunks by wrapping them with white tree wrap available at any local nursery or garden center. The white wrap helps reflect the sun from the tender trunks.
· Lawns - Late October to early November is the best time of year to feed your lawn. Apply a quick-release nitrogen fertilizer after the last mowing. Even though the grass doesn't appear to be growing, energy is being shipped down to the root system for storage. This stored energy will present itself in early greening next spring.
· Weed control - Annual weeds begin from seed, grow, then produce seed all in one year's time. These weeds, such as crabgrass and spurge, are best controlled in the early spring (before mid-April) with pre-emergent herbicides. Perennial weeds come back every year from the same root system. Perennial weeds, such as dandelion and field bindweed (also known as morning glory), are best controlled in the fall. After the first light frost, energy within the weed moves downward to the root system. Spraying perennial weeds at this time is effective because those chemicals have a better chance of destroying the roots.
· Planting - Fall is one of the best times to plant nursery stock. Cooler weather makes the transition easier for the plants. It also gives the plants a head start for next spring by producing root growth this season.
For more information on preparing your yard for winter, see our fact sheet.