Bundling Up for Winter

Winter is upon us! Ok, so Autumn is upon us first, but it is not too early to start prepping the perrenials and annual garden beds for winter.

Here are some techniques I will be implementing over the next month.

Cover Cropping
I have already overseeded my three annual beds with buckwheat and hairy vetch. Why? Because I want my little garden to get a facelift.

After a long season of abuse, cover cropping will help to revitalize the soil so that when it comes time to plant next year…nutrients and minerals will already be up to the top soil, ready for the new garden plants. 

These cover crops will also help with erosion by slowing the water runoff, and the root system will help to improve water and air movement in the soil. In the Spring, we will simply chop and drop the buckwheat and hairy vetch adding instant organic matter, as well as a mulch of sorts, to feed our new garden.


Perennial Preparation
Every one of the perennials we have planted have specific winter prep requirements. Now, you don’t have to take these steps. Nature has a tendency to take care of itself…but, why not help it out a little bit. Especially since the plants are so young and new to this environment.

Roses, from what I have read, pretty much harden themselves off as the weather gets colder. But, since there are so many varieties, there are not a lot of signs the rose gives to indicate said hardening off. What to do? Stop fertilizing 6 weeks prior to the first frost and let hips develop. Since we want the hips, that is not a problem; however, I think our bushes are a little young yet to develop big hips. (No pun intended).

After the first frost, water the soil thoroughly before the ground freezes and after a hard freeze, mound compost up to protect the roots. This step is key as it will ensure that the ground stays frozen–protecting the whole plant from the thaw-freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw dance.

This is where things are going to get sad. My trees have done so well and have so much new growth. But, as I have been researching I have found that the best way to ensure that this growth continues is to…prune.

For the apple tree, I will need to prune to 3-4 branches. If the tree has less than 3 branches, I need to cut off all the weaklings. This will encourage the new growth next season, but it will be very hard to do.

The prep-work for the mulberry trees is not much happier. These I will need to prune to 3-5 sturdy branches and then prune the branches to 1′ in length to an outside bud…that is, pick the bud you want to keep and cut the rest of the branch off. I know, tragic right?

After all this, I am going to wrap the cages to protect them from the wind and snow and mulch, mulch, mulch.

I’m a little nervous about this one. I only have the male kiwi left and I won’t get the two replacement females until the Spring. What if the male doesn’t make it??

To increase his chances, I am going to head back the main shoot to just below the wire to encourage new growth. Then I am going to wrap the trunk to insulate.

The grapes are also doing quite well. None of them have yet reached the first wire, but they are all stretching with all their might to get there. That said, the winter prep pointers I’ve found all say to “head the leader back to just above the bottom wire” so I’m not sure that I need to do anything since none of them have reached the wire. I may take a few sticks of bamboo and train the leader up closer to the bottom wire.

All we need to do here is cut the hops to the ground, water and mulch. They will come back even stronger next season. Very low maintenance.

Bamboo does not like the wind, especially the cold winter wind. This would explain why our bamboo is not doing so well. On our property, there is really no protection from the wind. So to prepare the abused bamboo for winter, we are going to build some sort of a wind barrier and make sure that we continue to water and fertilize.

The Fedge
The plan is to wrap each cage in cellophane or some sort of clear material to protect from both the cold and the cruel winter winds.

These just need to be heavily mulched and watered.

Chokeberries (Aronia)
For these, I will thin out the weak branches, mulch and water.

Autumn Olive
As mentioned before, this is considered an invasive weed for reasons beyond my comprehension. It’s highly nutritious, beautiful and grows fast…so what’s the problem? This bad rep makes it difficult to find any “care” instructions for the misunderstood fruit. Aside from wrapping the cages in cellophane, mulching and watering, I have no idea what to do here.

And after all of these preparations, my annual beds will be covered for the winter and all of my perennials will have protection from the cold.

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