It’s time to put your landscape to bed, and while your shrubs and trees likely aren’t dreaming of sugarplums (unless they’re plum trees), winterizing them properly is the best gift you can give them. Winter is a challenging time for all living things here in Ontario, and often their survival depends on how well they’re able to prepare in the fall. While squirrels can gather nuts and we can stock away holiday dinners, your landscape plants depend a lot on you to do their winter prep for them. These six tips will not only help your landscape brace itself for the cold; they’ll also help your entire yard bounce back weeks before your neighbours’.
Don’t Cut the Grass
You may have heard conflicting advice on this, and there are definitely folks out there who would advise you to do a final clip while you can. Personally, I think the right thing to do all comes back to what’s best for the environment. While I’m not saying you should let your grass grow up to your knees, leaving it a little unkempt is the more sustainable method. Small animals and insects rely on the grass to build nests under the snow, and we need all animals to exist harmoniously (even our least favourite) for a healthy ecosystem. As a bonus, a little long grass adds attractive texture in the winter as it pokes out above the snow!
Let Pond Fish Breathe
If you have a pond with live fish, the winter calls for a little dedicated care. As cold-blooded animals, they will slow down a lot when it gets cold out, which means you’ll be able to feed them less frequently. However, a pond that’s frozen over with ice blocks the flow of oxygen, which can suffocate fish. A pond aerator or de-icer is a must-have item when you keep live fish. Aerators work by keeping water moving so ice can’t form as quickly, and de-icers use heat to keep a hole in the pond surface.
Protect Against Deer and Rodents
Winter is a desperate time for deer, rabbits, and other rodents. As much as I feel for them, the damage they can inflict on shrubs and trees is pretty devastating. Use spiral guards on tree trunks to prevent chewing damage, and spray shrubs with PlantSkydd organic deterrent to keep them protected.
Guard Trees Against Winter Damage
If you planted trees in your landscape this year, first of all, good on you! However, new trees take time to establish, and the first year in your landscape is when they’re at their most vulnerable. Wrap new broadleaf trees, as well as any rhododendrons on your property, with burlap to keep them protected from frigid winds and ice.
Contrary to popular belief, evergreens are also vulnerable to winter damage. If you have evergreens in your landscape, or porch pots with fresh evergreen clippings, you can prevent them from drying out by spraying them down with WiltPruf. WiltPruf is an anti-dessicant product that prevents needles from dehydrating from long-term exposure to dry winds and cold temperatures. You can also use this product to protect live Christmas trees from drying out too quickly, and with proper application, you can get your porch pots to last until March!
Support Fragile Evergreens
Upright evergreens, like some junipers and many cedar varieties, have delicate branches that can’t support a lot of weight. Guelph is no stranger to heavy, slushy snow, which can weigh down trees so much they peel back like bananas. Use netting or twine to wrap or secure your evergreens—it only takes one snowstorm to leave some of them permanently disfigured!
Don’t Stop Watering
Ignore the stares from the neighbours and water your trees now! Trees, shrubs, and perennials are about to go months without any rain, so they’ll depend on the moisture reserves they accumulate late in the season. The excess water in the soil will also freeze around the roots, which insulates root systems for winter and provides an immediate water source the moment the ground starts melting in the spring. By watering well into mid-December, you’ll prevent branches from dying back from winter burn. You’ll also be helping them spring back faster next year.
When you think about it, none of these tips really take too much time at all. It only takes a few minutes to wrap up a small tree, and not cutting your grass—I mean, you can practically count that as time gained—so no excuses this year! If we all put a little extra time into our yards this month, we can do our part to keep the landscapes in Guelph and all through Wellington County healthy, beautiful, and flourishing. Believe me; a healthy environment is the best gift of all.