1.       Remove all dead annual plants from the flower and vegetable garden if you haven’t already. Dead plants harbor insects and diseases for the next year. Turning the garden soil over prior to winter and after removal of all debris, helps expose disease organisms to the extreme temperatures of winter which may kill them off and also helps prevent problems next year. It is recommended you do this before the ground freezes solid.

 2.      Mulch perennials after a couple of hard freezes (28 degrees F. or lower). Remember the mulch is to keep the ground cold the rest of the winter and to insulate the crown of the plant from winter wind dehydration. Shredded leaves that have been chopped up by the lawn mower, wood chips, or clean straw or hay makes good organic mulch. Clean straw is material that is as weed-free as possible. Mulch Strawberries with this weed-free straw in early to mid-November. Small branches may be used to keep mulch in place. Prune Roses to 24 inches so they do not blow in the strong winter winds and break. Next Spring prune Rose canes lower and especially any dead branches.

3.       After Thanksgiving, on a day when the temperature is above 40 degrees F. and remains above 40 degrees F. for at least 4 to 6 hours after application, apply your first application of an anti-desiccant/anti-transpirant such as Wilt-stop or Wilt-pruf to newly planted evergreen trees and shrubs, and other plants exposed to winter wind conditions. Plants that do not lose their needles or leaves such as Holly, Boxwood, Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Taxus (Yews), and other small evergreen trees especially need this protection from the winter wind dehydration.

          We have a small Fat Albert Spruce, a small Umbrella Pine, a small Umbrella Spruce, a row of Boxwood shrubs, an Azalea, and a Rhododendron that I will spray after Thanksgiving. A second application will go on after New Years Day, and a third after Valentines Day. I use a hose end sprayer where and when possible.  If not possible I use a one gallon pump up sprayer with the anti-desiccant mixed with lukewarm water.

          We use the phrase “winter kill” but it is really “winter wind dehydration”. The winter sun and wind dries out the plant needles and leaves but the ground is frozen so the plant can not replenish the water. Thus the plant/shrub/tree dries up, especially the tips, causing “winter burn” to the tips or “winter kill” to the whole branch or even the plant. Evergreen trees, shrubs, and other plants that do not lose their leaves or needles are especially vulnerable. Also, even though the ground is frozen, applying water to plants helps. Water applied to trees, shrubs, and plants on a warm winter day when the temperature is above 40 or 45 degrees F. will still soak into the frozen soil and be beneficial. After New Years Day, around Valentines Day, and around Easter are good times to consider watering. Just let the water run very, very slowly.

6.       Attract birds to the winter landscape by feeding with a recommended mix for your area. Remember that the mix must be for the birds that will over winter in your garden. In the fall and spring we have migrations but very seldom in the winter.

          Birds need water to drink, to clean themselves, and also as a way to stay warm. So keep your bird bath filled and use a birdbath de-icer or heater. You can purchase one that you set in the bowl or I have one that has the heating coils built into the bowl. Open water is a real bird magnet. 

Copyright 2015