As I write this, the temperature is nearly 50 degrees. However, yesterday’s high was 20. Plants need to be treated, at this time, like it is winter.
First – you may need to add a layer of winter mulch, 3″ if your soil is bare and you are using shredded bark, 6″ if you are using composted leaf mold. This mulch will keep the soil temperatures more constant during winter months and therefore reduce early bud break on many shrubs and trees. In addition, it will provide a layer of protection that helps retain moisture in the soil. Before mulching, remove all debris from the beds including dead and diseased leaves, and broken twigs.
Second – December and early January are typically good times to prune. Cut perennials to the ground where frost has killed foliage. Perennials like Hellebores, that bloom during mild winter temperatures and are evergreen should not be cut back since cutting will remove your blooms. Knock-out Roses can be cut back now. Hybrid Tea roses should, however, be pruned in the spring. Be sure to protect the hybrid tea roses with a mulch layer that is mounded over the graft. Most evergreens, including hollies, cypress and false cypress can be pruned now. Boxwoods should be pruned in early spring.
Third – if you had pots of flowers this year, they should be cleaned up for the winter. It is generally a good idea to remove soil and wash out the pot to remove any disease residue or insects like pill bugs. Many clay pots need to be stored in sheds or garages since these pots may crack and chip in freezing temperatures. If you have pots with evergreens or other permanent plants, remember to water them during the mild days in the winter. In addition, a mulch layer will help to maintain more even soil temperatures.
Fourth – it is a good time to clean out bird houses and get them ready for the spring.
Fifth – winter is an excellent time to plan your spring garden. A landscape plan will help you determine what changes you might make to both your hard and soft-scapes. It is an excellent time to review what is working in your yard and what is not. If you need help with this planning process, please contact us to review our design services.