When should I begin preparing my garden for the fall and winter and what do I need to do?

by kgeyer on July 19, 2010

In early September, you should begin planning your final Fall cleanup of the lawn and garden.  Normally Minot, ND and surrounding communities experience a frost between the last week of September and the first week of October.

For trees and shrubs, do not fertilize this late into the fall.  You want your trees and shrubs to prepare to go dormant not to put on new growth.  Water established plant material on a weekly basis until frost.  Water all newly planted trees and shrubs twice a week until a hard, killing frost.  

For perennial gardens, water all new perennial plantings on a daily basis until a hard, killing frost.  Perennials can be moved or divided before a hard frost as long as they are replanted and watered promptly.  Do not trim back dead foliage on plants that are newly planted, or on plants that have been in the ground less than two full seasons.  The extra blanket of dead foliage created after a killing frost will help these newer plantings winter.  You can trim back established herbaceous (soft stemmed) perennials to the ground if desired.  Most gardeners will leave two to three inches of old growth to mark the location for next year.  Hybrid T roses should only be trimmed back as far as the oldest canes, never further than a foot from the ground.

Bulbs, fall bulbs (things that bloom in the early spring) can be planted in the fall any time before frost and do not need to be watered in.  Soft bulbs like gladiolas and dahlias should be dug after a killing frost.  They will not winter reliably if left in the ground.  Bulbs and tubors of this type can be kept in cool, dry, space like a root cellar or heated garage.  Do not allow them to freeze. 

Annuals planted in the ground can be cleaned up after a killing frost and the dead foliages disposed of.  Annuals in container gardens or pots should be removed from their pot and discarded.  Pottery, especially clay should be stored in a shed or garage if available and should be empty, clean and completely dry before prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures. 

Water gardens should generally be treated as annual with the exception of water lilies that can be stored in a cool, dark space in a waterproof container.  The plant should be stored in water, and although it can freeze, it would prefer to remain slightly above freezing. 

Lawns should be treated like trees and shrubs; do not fertilize in the fall.  Again, the lawn, like trees and shrubs should be prepared to go dormant, not encouraged to put on new growth.  Processes like aeration or power raking are not recommended until spring. Continue to water on your normal schedule until frost.

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