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Prepare Gardens For Winter
November 27, 2017

I can share pictures once again.

It pays to keep the 'Geek Squad' handy.

Pictured is a new moon from a week ago.

I will share some pictures of the fur kids as well.

Sophie is losing her kitten looks, and becoming quite the attractive gal.

She is six months old now.

We seem to have acquired a pair of stub tailed squirrels.

At first i thought maybe a lost tail from a predator.

But no wound or scar, then a second one appeared.

Birth defects?

They are pictured below.

Thanksgiving was a joy, as we do have plenty to be thankful for.

Now most of us gear up for Christmas and the New Year.

Much of November has been colder and wetter than average, slowing down my outdoor tasks.

However, the weather has been rather mild on the most part this past week, and into this week (many days above average temperatures for this time of year).

Bonus, I've been able to get some things done I figured would get ignored this fall.

Even though some trees are still green(turning black), and waiting for leaves to fall, I was able to collect enough to at least cover tender my tender perennials.

Because most of you are also enjoying a late Autumn, I switched gears and am writing

on 'Preparing Gardens For Winter'.

This is a rather long read, take your time and of course,


If you live in the great white North, snow can come early and often.

This may pose a problem if you don't have your fall clean up taken care of.

It may also be a blessing however, because many things that you might cut back are left standing for the wildlife.

Here in my part of Michigan, we have had dusting lake effect snow, once or twice.

And I know several areas throughout the Great Lakes have been hit pretty hard by the Big Lakes.

Michigan's upper peninsula for sure.

For those of you unfamiliar with lake effect snow and the Great Lakes, it happens something like this.

When the cold Canadian and Arctic air moves over the warmer bodies of water, it sucks up moisture and then deposits the moisture in the form of snow (as well as lake effect rain).

It has been COLD at times.

Depending on the wind direction and force of the wind, some areas can get buried with several feet of snow and other areas more than 100 miles from the lakes can get several inches.

Just another wonder from these magnificent bodies of water.

I digress.

So what can you do to prepare for winter and yes, next spring.

Several things actually.

First, let's start with your lawn if you have one.

Winter or fall feeding is the most important feeding of the year (this should've been done a month ago in northern regions).

It allows the roots to store up nutrients to aid in a strong green up in the spring and fight off any weakness that may have occurred during a

tough summer and fall.

Give your lawn a tight hair cut, this helps to prevent thatch.

Even in warmer climates, with shorter days, grass slows down and a good feeding and tight cut will help.

If you've done your last mow for the season, run your mower dry (any gasoline powered equipment), you don't want old gas turning bad on you, or the alcohol in the gas to mess with your equipment.

You really should add a fuel stabilizer to all of your machinery, and do this all the time.

Add the stabilizer to your can of gas.

The 10% alcohol mix we put in our cars actually gums up your mower, blower, edger, and other gas run equipment.

I've learned this the hard way with repairs bills and a whole new mower a couple years ago.

If you have the time and want to get ahead of the game, change all filters, plugs and oil so you wont have that slowing you down next spring.

Sharpen the blades while you are at it.

Now your equipment is ready for next spring.

Are you cutting back perennials and pruning some shrubs an trees?

Not all plants should be cut back in the fall.

Leave grasses, some native flowers like Asters, Cone flowers and Liatris (not a requirement, but nice for wildlife).

Birds love the seeds and as leaves and snow collect, they make a dandy place to hang out when the weather is nasty.

When you are raking leaves, be sure to let some hang out in your flower beds and gardens.

Maybe add some shredded leaves (Whole leaves like maple will form a slimy mat, choking out plants and not allowing the rain water to flow through).

Shredded leaves are priceless as a mulch for your gardens.

This Autumn's leaves not only add organic matter to gardens, but you will find birds like Towhees and Thrushes scratching back and forth looking for some groceries (insects and seeds).

In Southern Climates, this will happen throughout the winter.

For us up North, it will be late winter and early spring we see these garden scratchers.

Leaves also make nesting materials for some birds and small mammals.

Gardening for wildlife is not for the prim and proper.

Nope, you have to learn some new habits.

Like hiding your tools certain times of the year.

Walk through any natural area and you will see what I mean.

Shrubs aren't pruned into nice globes or well trimmed hedges.

Nature is.........


Nature or natural.

That is what your birds and wildlife want and prefer.

Besides, it's less work for you once you get the hang of it.

(Both Stub tail squirrels, leaf bag is covering a Z7 plant.)


Mulch is a good thing.

It doesn't matter where you live, fall or winter mulching is important.

In temperate regions, mulch helps to retain moisture and gradually breaks down into

organic matter.

If you live in some zone 7's and lower (6,5,4,etc.) where the ground freezes, then mulch is for you.

Especially if you planted anything this fall.

Mulch will help keep the soil temperature at an even keel so you wont have frost and thaw upheaval.

Plants that haven't established a good strong root system are prone to this and often winter kill because they pulled from the ground where plant crowns and roots are killed off be the cold.

Anything planted from September on in colder climates should be protected with a few inches of mulch.

There still is no guarantee for mums (mulch heavily and don't cut them back).

Autumn's Natural Mulch:

Leaves are one of "Nature's" gifts to us.

They give us oxygen, take in carbons, cool us, buffet noises, and sometimes the drag of raking them.

However, leaves also provide something else.

Mulch and lots of it.

Leaves work as an insulator for many plants and offer food for many microbes that feed on them and turn them into black gold for our gardens.

If you can work some into your soil now, they will pretty much have decomposed by next spring.

Leaves enrich soils, sand and help to break down clay.

If you can save some bags of leaves for next year, it is a good idea.

Don't throw them away.

Side Bar:

The past several years I placed large bags of leaves on tender perennials such as Pineapple sage and Black and blue salvia.

Both are zone 7 hardy and survived our zone 5 winters, coming up bigger and better.

I do this for a few reasons.

I like to push the envelope.

If I can save a few bucks on plants, I'm all for that.

I like a challenge every now and then.

The whole idea is to keep the ground from freezing and killing off your plants.

So far, it works.


All life needs water and this is something I'm always having to remind people of.

In Michigan, we have had plenty of rain this fall, watering isn't an issue for us.

Still, you may have a tendency to forget about watering this time of year.

(After all, the plants may have lost their foliage,

or died back by now.)

That's right my friend, keep watering.

Especially your new plantings.

When it comes to trees and shrubs, they are considered new plantings into the second year, so keep them watered as well.

Roots are still growing until the ground freezes.

If you live where the ground doesn't freeze, than your hardy plant roots continue to grow all winter.

That means water.

Not just your new plantings, but your established evergreens cry for moisture during the winter.

Again, it doesn't matter where you live, if they aren't getting the moisture they need, you may lose your Evergreen (especially if it is less than two years old).

This holds especially true in regions where it gets snowy and cold and the harsh winter winds get blowing.

Keeping your plants hydrated as long as possible will minimize the stress of winter.

You can spray an anti-desiccant like "Wilt Proof" on your evergreens to help retain moisture.

You may live in an area where some kind of a wind break or wrapping is needed to help protect your special plants.

However, above all, water them as long as the weather allows and as needed to keep them going strong.

Tree wraps:

Vinyl wraps and burlap offer a different kind of protection.

Burlap is often used as a wind break, protecting many shrubs and small trees against the bitterly harsh, cold winter winds that can literally kill off or severely damage some shrubs and young plantings.

Others may use burlap as a protector from hungry deer, and a wind break.

Wrapped tight, burlap also prevents snow damage.

Vinyl tree wraps also multi-task.

You can use these handy dandy, flexible pieces of vinyl to keep critters of all sizes from chewing the bark of small or young trees.

If more than half of the "Cambium" is exposed or chewed through, you can expect some die back or complete death of your prized trees.

If you live where there are real winter temperatures, tree wrap not only keeps hungry creatures from chewing up your plants, but earns its keep preventing Sun scald happens when the temperatures go up and down repeatedly.

Freeze, Thaw, Freeze, Thaw.

Sap and juices begin to flow and then freeze again.

As you know, freezing liquid expands, and when this happens enough times, tree bark weakens and splits wide open exposing the cambium.

Sun scald may be a small split of run up and down the trunk.

It happens on the South to Southwest side of a tree because that is where the sun is beating and it has all day to thaw.

Even when the temperatures are below freezing and the sun is shining, the fluids warm enough to flow.

Young trees are susceptible to this, especially those with thin bark like maples.

I stopped trying to grow Japanese maple years ago (before I became more in tune with native plants).

Harsh winter winds and sun scald have killed a few expensive trees for me in the past.


If you are really energetic, you may want to get a jump on some pruning as well.

Fall and winter is an ideal time to prune many of your shrubs and small trees.

The foliage has dropped and you can see every branch and twig.

Break out your pruners and loppers.

Be sure to use bypass blades for this task and hopefully your blades are sharp enough not to tear the branches.

Bypass pruners offer a nice clean cut, where anvil pruners crush as the cut (avoid this).

Mashed and torn cuts don't heal as fast and are an invitation to problems.

If any of your plantings have sick or diseased branches, be sure to sanitize your pruners after each cut.

Pick and choose the branches you want to cut out or thin out so your shrubs are healthy and strong next year.

Take note to remove a branch or two that are rubbing or look like they will grow together in time.

Do this on shrubs and trees that are late bloomers or bloom on new growth like Rose of Sharon.

If you decide to prune shrubs that bloom in the spring like Forsythia, you are cutting off the buds that will be next year's flowers.

If a prune is needed for these shrubs, do it right after bloom.

Another reason for cool weather pruning is this........

Fungus and insects are pretty much dormant this time of year so you have less chance for problems to develop.

Plus the plants sap flow has slowed way down and healing takes place much faster.

Another plus..............................

Disrupting bird nests is a big thing when we do spring and summer pruning by doing this now, you aren't disrupting the birds.

Wasps may still be an issue in some regions.

By pruning and doing yard work on cool days. you wont have to content with stinging insects.

After all of this being said, the most important tasks you can do for your plants is to mulch and water as needed.

Okay, that was a rather long read.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

“There is nothing so comfortable as money, - but nothing so defiling if it be come by unworthily; nothing so comfortable, but nothing so noxious if the mind be allowed to dwell upon it constantly. If a man have enough, let him spend it freely. If he wants it,let him earn it honestly.”

Anthony Trollope(1815 - 1882)

The love of money, not money in itself is the downfall.

Here is God's word.

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, in their eagerness to get rich, have wandered away from the faith and caused themselves a lot of pain".

1 Timothy 6:10

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb.

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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