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Protecting Your Garden in Winter

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frost cover for plantsSpring, summer and fall give avid gardeners great opportunities to grow blooming flowers, tasty vegetables and stunning shrubs and trees. However, winter can be a brutal season and if you don't take the necessary steps to protect your garden you could see a lot of hard work go down the drain. Whether you live in the south or the north frost, snow and ice can present hazards for your garden and the better you prepare now the easier it will be to start growing again in the spring.

Clean Up Time – Use the nice weather in fall to do a thorough cleaning of the garden. After a busy spring and summer there will be plenty of stems to cut, branches to trim and debris to remove. Insects and disease spores have a habit of hiding underneath leaves, weeds and debris and by removing the overgrowth you can prevent these hazards from affecting next year's harvest. Use dead plants for compost and remove all dead vegetation from the garden.

Mulching – Protecting perennial plants from frost and cold temperatures is an annual battle. One of the best lines of defense is to use a layer of organic mulch. Mulching will also prevent the repeated freezing and thawing of soil that tends to cause plants to grow unevenly. Remember to mulch after the ground starts to freeze and before any heavy snowfall. Mulching too soon can lead to mice and rats nesting in the mulch and feeding on plants. Waiting for frost will ensure these rodents are long gone.

Frost Covers and Tree Tape – If frost comes early to your area it is a good idea to invest in a durable frost cover. These lightweight polypropylene fabric UV treated covers can raise temperatures by as much as 6 to 8 degrees while continuing to let air, light and moisture pass through. When it comes to newly planted trees winter sun can scald the bark. Wrap new tree trunks with special tree wraps and add 4 to 6 inches of shredded bark, wood chips and leaves around the base of the tree to add extra protection.

Store Tools – Don't forget to gather up your tools including garden hoses, plant containers and shade covers before putting your garden to rest for the season. Hoses left out in the winter can freeze to the spigot and cause it to break. Also, if water is left in the hose it will lead to mildew and mold. Carefully coil up your hose ensuring as much water is drained as possible before storing it in a shed or garage. Remember to pick up any garden tools, containers and supplies and safely store each in the proper place.

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