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Winter, time to clean and organize your garden

A wheelbarrow with dead branches inside.

Fall was particularly enjoyable, with maximum sun, mild temperatures and no strong winds: ideal to set the stage for our winter garden tasks.

From November to March, a gardener can take a step back. From the warmth of our cozy homes, we can start designing the following year’s garden and plan tasks that must be done.

However, it is crucial to still keep a tether directly to the garden. There are always a host of tasks to perform that will embellish and prepare the plot of land we love.

Here, we’ve asked landscaper Pierre Geeraerts to walk us through the major steps.

Rake up dried leaves and mulch in winter

Trees are bare: keep collecting all leaves from the ground down to the last, so that you’ll have a clean garden. This will transfer organic matter to where it needs to be.

Compost these leaves or use them for mulch.

  • Prefer dry leaves to those that would be gorged with water, since the air between leaves acts as an insulator.
  • Mulch protects the soil and enriches it – just remember how the soil in a forest is never bare.

Mulch, bark, gravel, pozzolana, slate, geotextiles (water-porous): many options are available for gardener to choose from.

Generally speaking, also clean up your flower beds, ornamental water basins, garden accessories, wrought iron garden ornaments

Winterize the most fragile plants

Some plants such as vulnerable exotic plants, or plants pruned to a cloud shape must be brought indoors to a cool greenhouse or shed. You might even risk the heated indoors of the house. Others, when more hardy, can remain outdoors to weather the winter, as long as it doesn’t get too cold. Simply prepare winterizing fleece and other protections, and set out to wrap them up whenever temperatures drop.

Plant, sow, savor!

In the vegetable patch, winter vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, leek, parsnip and Jerusalem artichoke must be ready for harvest by now. Pop them in the pan!

Start planning out your vegetable patch activities for a fresh new cycle, try to set up crop rotation plans.

It’s also possible to start preparing seedlings under cover. If the weather isn’t freezing in January, you can even try planting rose trees, deciduous trees and shrubs as well as fruit trees and perennials (not annuals). Since you’re going around with a spade, work it along the soil nearby to break it up and let the air flow through. Lastly, start preparing the summer flowering bulbs.

To prune or not to prune… in winter

Again, it is very important not to prune when it’s freezing. At the beginning of winter, it may still be possible to thin out the most vigorous plants like vines, roses and perennials, those that have stayed beautiful still at the beginning of fall.

However, most summer blooming plants need to keep what we could call “a sweater”. This is simply whatever leaves and blooms stay clinging to the tree. They’ll protect branches and buds at the coldest of winter. Consequently, don’t yet touch hydrangea flowers nor grasses for instance, and schedule your pruning of shrubs towards the end of winter.

Remember also that, as regards fruit trees, “stone fruit” trees must be pruned while still bearing leaves, whereas “pip” trees must be pruned once leaves have fallen away.

Land allocation: set things up for spring!

To maximize the entire garden when nature starts waking from its slumber, perform all heavy-duty work during winter. If the weather permits, of course! Renovating a walkway, preparing the soil for a lawn, hedge, terrace or body of water… Also, remember to check on birds and other critters that live in your garden, by providing water and adequate food while ensuring they have a place to burrow down during colder nights. They’ll be grateful to you and will stick around at the beginning of spring!

Claire Lelong-Lehoang

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY 2.0: Deb Nystrom
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