What should I do in my garden before the first frost?
Tonight, they’re calling for our first frost in Hampton Roads, so I wanted to give you all a couple tips to prepare as weather really cools and your tender perennials recede.
One of the first things to do is go through your irrigation and reduce the frequency of your watering. Cooler temps mean less water loss through evaporation. Less frequent watering encourages your turf roots to grow deeper as they seek water. This will increase drought tolerance for next summer.
Cut Back Perennials
Start cutting back some of your perennial flowers as they brown out. For daylilies, I always wait until all the green has gone out of the leaves. This indicates that the plant has translocated all of its energy and carbohydrates back to the root zone. Then, cut them to the ground. Waiting like this will give your daylilies more energy to greet you with awesome blooms next year.
Bring Your Plants In
During the warmer months, I bring all of my houseplants and succulents outside to get a good dose of sunshine and warmth. But it’s very important to remember to bring them back in before the first frost! Grab all those babies up and get them nice and cozy for the winter inside. Make sure to keep them by a bright window, so they don’t have a hard time adjusting to their big move.
Mulch Before the First Frost
Last of all, mulch. Mulching to a depth of 3 inches in the fall insulates your plants from the cold, protecting them from damage. Mulch suppresses weed growth naturally, diminishing the need for chemical herbicides. They also prevent sudden changes in soil temperature, which helps prevent tender premature growth during winter warm spells. Using a good hardwood mulch is best. Dyed mulches will work, but sometimes the dyes can be an irritant to the microbes and earthworms that our gardens need, so if you can, go for the natural hardwood mulches instead of dyed.
Buying Bulk is much more cost effective than buying bags, and you don’t have the plastic to throw into landfills (yay for reducing our waste!). Bag mulch is usually just a couple of cubic feet, while bulk mulch is sold by the cubic yard (27 cubic feet).
Be sure to keep mulch away from the root flare on your trees. Piling mulch into “Mulch Volcanoes” can harm trees by holding moisture against the bark inviting pests and diseases, so be sure to keep about a 1″ space between the trunk of your trees and the mulch.
As old man winter approaches, our days working in the garden are numbered for the year. Make the most of it by getting your plants ready for winter!