Protect trees and shrubs from winter damage. Early winter and early spring can be the most damaging times of the year for young trees and shrubs due to the sometimes-extreme temperature fluctuations here in the Northern Plains. The heart of winter poses its own threats in the form of wildlife damage and other weather curveballs. Thankfully there are methods for mitigating and preventing the resulting damage. Tree wraps protect against all these dangers, in addition to sun scalding. For further protection, wrapping trees and shrubs with chicken wire can deter rabbits or other wildlife from chewing on the bark and create a catch for leaves and snow, further insulating the plant to ensure winter survival.
Put your garden to bed. Most likely we’ve experienced a killing freeze by now, prompting us to begin cleaning up our garden to get it ready for winter. Annuals can be removed, and temperate perennials can be uprooted and overwintered. Yet as much as you might want to, refrain from cutting your perennial plant material down in the fall. The herbaceous material can insulate the plant from the cold temperatures of winter while providing great winter interest to the landscape and food for resident wildlife. However, plants that exhibited issues with powdery mildew should have their herbaceous material promptly removed and disposed of to reduce the threat of it reoccurring, as the spores can overwinter on the foliage and stems.
Fill in patchy grass with dormant seed turf. Before you hang up your gardening gear for the season, get out the cool season grass seed and do a dormant seeding prior to the first significant snowfall. While there are a couple of extra variables that affect the overall success rate of seeding turf in the winter as opposed to the spring, dormant seeding can prove quite successful. The soon-to-freeze ground combined with a snow cover holds the seed in place until conditions are just right in the spring for the seed to naturally germinate and grow during those first couple of chilly weeks after snow melt.
—Chris Schlenker is the head gardener of McCrory Gardens at South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota.
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