When the mercury begins to drop, try these gardening tips to spruce up your garden and prevent winter damage. We also included some fun gardening activities to engage your children during winter break! To learn more ideas on how to protect your plants from frost, stop by and read, Protecting Plants From Freezing Temperatures.
Safety first! Many use infinite amounts of salt in their pathways and porches to prevent a dangerous fall on winter’s slippery ice. But did you know that salt could wash away in your garden and sterilize the fertile soil? To get the best traction without harming your prized cabbages, use organic kitty litter without any added chemicals. You’ll find that a light sprinkle of litter can salvage you and your plants from preventable winter dangers.
Drip Irrigation: It is good practice to check your irrigation system for damage each season. Before winter hits in full force, you may want to review your model’s instructions and remove all of the water from the system. Then turn off the system completely for the coldest months. Many attribute this to be the best way to protect your irrigation investment from extensive winter damage.
Depending on your city’s winter climate, a rule of thumb for winter watering is once every 10 days when temperatures are below 75 degrees F, and once a week when temperatures are between 75-90 degrees F. Be sure to water only when temperatures in the soil are above 40 degrees, and when there is no snow coverage. If possible, a midday watering routine is best to allow time for water to soak in before chillier nighttime temperatures hit.
Pruning Procedures: Pruning a large tree or bush is best done in the wintertime. Prune branches that awkwardly cross, and/or branches that appear to have diseased or dead wood. Remember, topping a tree or cutting more than 25% of a plant can ultimately lead to more extensive damage in the long run. As for more delicate herbs, flowers and vegetables; wait until the spring to prune. Even damaged leaves and foliage continue to carry heat and can suffer more frost damage if pruned too early.
Use A “Winterizer”: During the winter months, plants should focus on root growth, and can benefit from a fertilizer with potassium and phosphorus. In early to late fall, use a trowel to loosen the soil, and add fertilizer near the roots of the plant. If your plants have already experienced freezing or snow, skip the fertilizer and simply add more mulch to the roots to keep them warmer.
Involve The Kiddos! Winter break is fast approaching, and finding some fun winter activities is the perfect way to get your kids active and away from the Xbox! Try inviting children to make a windowsill garden. Herbs are wonderful to grow indoors; and they are kid friendly to implement. Kids also love decorating small pots with colorful paints, paper and glue. Draw a funny face on a pot, plant a little winter grass and watch the head of hair grow! Or, have kids make holiday gifts for their loved ones with a little creativity and a terra cotta pot.
Engage children in a gardening or bird club. Find a group at your local library, or start one of your own! Children love distributing birdseed in the winter and documenting birds that have stopped by for a snack. If you have a craft store nearby, involve kids in building a birdhouse to help keep the neighborhood birds “warm” in the winter.
What gardening tips will you use this winter?