Autumn is here, and although it’s the season for ghosts, goblins, hot chocolate and everything pumpkin, it’s also time to prepare your flowerbeds for winter!
How beds are put to rest this fall will have a lot to do with how they perform next year. And that includes everything from plant performance, to eliminating the risk of pests and disease.
But even more, it makes all the difference between a thriving, low-maintenance flowerbed , or having to control a weed-infested patch of perennials.
Another words, a little work this fall pays off big when it comes to lessening next year’s chores and work load! And who doesn’t want that?
Here are 4 easy steps to help prepare your flowerbeds for winter, and set the stage for blooming and weed-free beds next year.
4 Steps To Prepare Your Flowerbeds For Winter
#1 Remove All Annual Flowers
Nothing will cause more issues next year with pests, disease and volunteer sprouts in your beds than allowing dying and decaying plants to overwinter. Especially when it comes to annual flowers.
Annuals such as petunias, marigolds and impatiens are full of seed heads on their blooms. And if allowed to overwinter, those seed heads sprout to become next years volunteer weeds.
In addition, decaying foliage becomes the perfect host for insects and disease to multiply and lie in wait.
Be sure to remove any potted or container annuals placed in or near flowerbeds as well. The seed pods can easily blow into nearby flowerbeds, causing the same seed-sprouting weed issues next year.
#2 Fall Perennial Care
Most perennials need to have their foliage and stems cut back as they die off in late fall. But before this takes place, it’s important to dig out and divide any overgrown plants.
Overgrown perennials are not only unsightly, but are more susceptible to disease and insect infestations. And to boot, they usually produce fewer blooms the larger they become.
Autumn is the perfect time to assess beds for perennial growth and maturity.
Plants have had an entire season to grow, and it’s easy to see which need split. At the same time, you can see what areas of your beds could use a few more transplants to help fill in. See : How To Divide Perennials In The Fall
Not only does this chore help prepare your beds for winter, it prepares them to have less open spaces next year. And less open spaces means fewer chances for weeds to take hold!
Step 3 # Don’t Wait Til Spring To Remove Those Weeds!
Now that your flowerbeds are cleared out and cut back, its time to start attacking those weeds, once and for all!
Don’t think weeds that die off for the winter aren’t coming back. Not only will they come back, they will come back stronger.
First, much like annuals, the seed heads of weeds left become “planted” in the ground. Only to come back to spring forth more weeds next year.
Secondly, weeds left in the ground use up valuable resources such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. The same resources needed by perennials for strong growth and bigger blooms.
#4 Preparing Flowerbeds For Winter – The Importance Of A Fall Mulching
And that leads to the final and most important of all fall flowerbed chores – mulching!
If you want to eliminate weeds next year, it all begins this fall with a thick coat of protective mulch.
So many gardeners place a huge emphasis on spring mulching, when in reality, fall is an even more important time to mulch flowerbeds.
In fact, when it comes to preventing weeds, it is truly the most important task in preparing your flowerbeds for winter!
Flowerbeds left bare, or mostly-bare through the winter are easy access for blowing and drifting weed seeds to find a home. And once they do, they will plant themselves and lie in wait til spring.
Leaving the soil bare also allows minerals and nutrients in the top layer of soil to be eroded away from winter’s wind, rain and snow.
Adding a thick 3 to 4 inch layer helps eliminate both of these chronic problems. And to boot, it aids in protecting the roots of your perennials as well. (See: Selecting The Right Mulch)
So get out there, enjoy that crisp fall weather, and get those flowerbeds prepared for winter. Your beds, and your back will thank you next spring!
Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary
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