Put your garden to bed this winter | Iowa Public Radio

Like kids and shirts, gardens need to be tucked in. Tucking your garden in, aka overwintering, is the process of preparing plants for — and protecting plants over — the winter to keep them alive and well until spring. Overwintering should occur after your plants have gone dormant, which likely means waiting until November, once the temperature has dropped.

Preparing your yard for a long winter nap can take many forms and will depend on the plants you grow. We’ve compiled a brief checklist of overwintering steps to consider before the cold creeps in for good. Welded Mesh Suppliers

Put your garden to bed this winter | Iowa Public Radio

Taking care of your lawn in the fall will help it grow lush and green in the spring. As long as there’s no snow on the ground and the grass is still growing, mow your lawn! Keeping it short will ensure that when snow does come to stay, your lawn won’t get matted down and come up in brown patches in the spring.

For the same reason, you should be raking leaves off your lawn or chopping them up with the lawn mower. If you leave your leaves, your grass won’t stay green.

Every bed needs a blanket in the winter, including your garden beds. In mid-November, when daytime temperatures hover near 40 degrees and nighttime temperatures are around 20 degrees, you should start mulching mildly cold hardy plants like strawberries and tea roses to keep them warm through the winter.

Strawberries need to be covered with four - five inches of mulch — straw, cornstalks or pine needles — that’s held down with chicken wire, hardware cloth or snow fence. When covering roses, mound soil or compost at the foot of the plant and top it with a layer of mulch.

If you’ve got empty garden beds, add a couple inches of compost or manure to the soil before the ground freezes, then add a layer of mulch on top. This will prepare your garden beds with nutrients for the spring while also keeping weeds away.

Many perennials will survive the winter just fine without help. However, if you have new perennials in pots that haven’t been planted in their final location, you’ll need to bury the container to help them overwinter. If you have tender perennials — Calla Lilies, Dahlias, Cannas, etc. — you’ll need to prepare them and bring them inside.

Although trees and shrubs look tough, they need a helping hand to get through the winter. Unplanted trees and shrubs should be buried in their containers just like unplanted perennials. Newly planted trees and shrubs need moisture even in the cold and should be watered once or twice between November and March.

To protect trees and shrubs from deer and rabbits, fence around them with chicken wire or hardware cloth. Trees that are four - five inches in diameter or less should be wrapped with hardware cloth or vinyl for the winter.

Make sure any fences you put up are at least three feet tall. Rabbits will destroy plants in a matter of days, and if it snows they’ll be able to reach over a short fence. Deer can jump up to eight feet, so depending on the area you’re protecting you may need a fairly tall fence.

A note on pruning: If there’s not a pressing reason to cut back your shrubs and perennials (such as disease), don’t do it. Trimming them down will make them colder over the winter, and trimming down decorative plants like ornamental grasses denies you lovely garden design through the colder months. 

Your garden is just about tucked in for the winter, but don’t forget to:

Put your garden to bed this winter | Iowa Public Radio

Welded Wire Mesh Fence Want more information on overwintering? Check out ISU Horticulture Extension’s guides on how to prepare all your favorite plants for the cold.