COLUMN: Adding some winter colour

Winter is coming. So, here’s a cold-weather checklist for your garden...

Winter heathers can add a nice burst of colour in your garden during the cold-weather months.

Winter heathers can add a nice burst of colour in your garden during the cold-weather months.

Winter is coming. So, here’s a cold-weather checklist for your garden:

Winter Colour: Heavy rainfalls have taken their toll on many garden annuals and perennials.

They will make great compost, but removing them will leave your garden looking rather bare.  Hardy winter colour, set out now, will add new life and provide much-needed colour to your winterscape.  Strategically planting winter colour in groups with contrasting blocks of bright colours, like yellow, with more pastel shades, creates the most vibrant effect.  Centre pansy groupings with the many unique colours of evergreen carex grasses and add colourful conifers, winter heathers and evergreen perennials, like euphorbias, for winter containers and plantings that come alive now and last through to April.

Fall Bulbs: It is still the ideal time to plant your fall bulbs.  Plant them in well-drained soil at a depth of three times the diameter of the bulb. Plant bulbs in groupings for the most ‘pop’.

With proper planning, you can time your bulbs to bloom in sequence from January through June. I’m a big fan of botanical or species bulbs that naturalize easily and come back each year with an even more impressive display.

Make sure you have at least a few giant alliums for a great summer show in June.

Lifting Bulbs: It’s the last call for lifting and protecting summer bulbs. Gladiola corms and begonia tubers should have been lifted by now, and they must be kept warm at about 15°C (60°F).  It is also the time to lift dahlia and canna tubers.  Make sure you dry them thoroughly then dust them with sulphur powder.  Keep them from frost, and store them cool 5-10°C (40-50°F).

Vegetable Gardens:

Many late vegetables can stay in the garden for winter harvesting.

These include turnips, parsnips, brussels sprouts, swiss chard and the new series of winter vegetables.

If you do not have proper vegetable storage, you can place a thick mulch of bark over your root crops and leave them in the ground as long as possible.

Compost: Fall is a great time to add existing compost to your garden, and there is still time to plant Garden Rejuvenation Mix for invaluable green manure in the spring.  Speaking of compost, make sure you take full advantage of all the leaves, old annuals and vegetable stems by composting them over the winter.  You might also wish to add more sand to your vegetable garden to improve the drainage next year. Applying lime is important now too, except of course where you are going to grow potatoes.

Lawns: Cut your lawns quite low (1½-2 inches) one more time to allow more air circulation in and around the root systems.

This can prevent many disease problems.

To prevent moss from taking over your lawn, maintain a high level of nutrients by applying a controlled slow-release, high nitrogen fertilizer and by applying prilled lime at the rate of 10 kilograms per 2000 square feet to prevent acidic soil.  It is too late now to seed new lawns, but aerating and sanding existing lawns now would sure make a huge difference.

Trees and Shrubs:

Now is the best time to plant most evergreens, fruit trees and shade trees. They are becoming dormant and, once planted, they will immediately form new roots.  By spring, they will have well established root systems.  Some points to remember:

• The quality of the soil in which you plant your new trees will determine how well your trees grow.  Work in plenty of fine bark mulch to open up and provide good drainage in our heavy clay soils.

• If your trees are in burlap sacks, you should leave the sack on the rootball – it’s holding all those roots together.

• Bare root trees can be safely planted now.  They will make  new roots, getting them off to a great start come spring.

If you use a liquid starter, your trees will get a faster start.

Evergreen hedges, planted now, will provide a good windbreak for cold winter winds, thereby helping to keep your fuel bill down a little.

Hedges will also give you privacy and at the same time, beautify your home.  So all things considered, an evergreen hedge is an excellent investment.

Many fall flowering trees and shrubs can be planted now to provide winter beauty.

These include viburnum ‘Pink Dawn’, autumn flowering cherries, Chinese witch hazel, ornamental grasses, jasmine and the many varieties of berried plants to name just a few. It is critical that you begin organic dormant spraying with ‘Green Earth Lime Sulphur’ and ‘Horticultural Oil’ in mid-November to control moss, algae, insects and diseases that overwinter on your trees.

We are now entering a brand new season, and it is so nice to have our lawns and gardens in shape for the coolest and wettest time of the year.

The addition of winter colour is a pure bonus – one you will appreciate more and more as winter progresses.

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