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Prepping Your Garden for Winter

I've always loved the warmth and tenderness conveyed in the expression "putting the garden to bed." Good news: A few simple steps are all it takes to prep your space for a happy, healthy, and cozy winter ahead.

To Prune or Not to Prune?

Image courtesy Janet Davis.

For the most part, I fall into the "not to prune" category when it comes to leaving perennials and grasses intact for the winter. There are a few reasons: First, leaving them be provides a helpful extra bit of insulation to the plant's crown and roots. Second, many of the dried seed heads of both perennials and grasses are an important source of wintertime food for birds. Third, dried seed heads and grass foliage offer a welcome bit of color and structure throughout the colder months.

Nourish Your Soil

Image by nixoncreative courtesy iStock.

Fall is one of the most important times to feed your soil with a nice layer of compost. Think of it like eating a balanced meal of carbs and protein before a big workout. What a difference it makes in your ability to get through the workout AND recover afterwards, right? The same goes for your soil, and your plants will thank you by exhibiting increased vigor when they wake up next spring. I like working about one inch of compost into the soil before putting down mulch.

A Cozy Blanket of Mulch

Image by ronstik courtesy iStock.

The last big step in winter garden prep is to add a hefty layer (2-3 inches) of mulch to your planters and garden beds. Mulching offers a whole host of benefits, from important temperature and moisture regulation and insulation, as well as added acidity, to improved soil structure and nutrition when it breaks down, similar to the effects of compost). The mulch also gives some extra erosion control during periods of heavy rain. My favorite type is pine bark — either shredded or nuggets is fine. Definitely steer clear of any dyed varieties.

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