University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Prepare Yard and Garden for Winter

November 2, 2000

With winter creeping closer, final preparations are needed for yard and garden plantings. Weather extremes and wildlife damage are two main concerns facing landscape plantings.

Winter mulches should be applied to protect perennial plantings from winter weather. These are suggested to help protect perennial flower plantings and strawberry beds from alternating freezing and thawing cycles over the winter, not from freezing. It's best to wait awhile before mulching perennials and strawberries until about Thanksgiving or later so the plants have gone dormant and the soil freezes to apply the mulches. Straw or evergreen boughs make good winter mulches.

For most perennial flowers, allowing the dead plant material to remain until spring may help protect the crown of the plant, although if the bed is mulched later this fall, it doesn't really matter. Most ornamental grasses provide interesting winter foliage effects when left standing.

Rabbits and mice are the primary animals that may gnaw on tender bark of trees and shrubs in winter. Putting up a barrier, such as poultrywire or hardware cloth, is the best defense. Put a fence around shrubs, and secure with a few stakes. Put a loose cylinder of hardware cloth around the trunk base of younger trees susceptible to mouse or rabbit gnawing.

Another problem facing evergreens during winter is desiccation, or drying out, from the wind and some cases sun. Monitor evergreen plantings for the need to water right up until the ground freezes.

Yard and garden cleanup should continue as needed until snowcover. Continue to mow lawns as needed until topgrowth ceases. Besides just cleaning up leaves and plant parts, making notes of plant performance, location, and problems can help prepare for next season. This especially helpful with vegetable plants, annuals, and perennial flower plantings.

Finally, don't forget about power equipment. It's not too early to check on the condition of winter equipment. Don't wait until the first significant snowfall to realize all the shovels are broken or the snowblower won't start! And make sure summer equipment, such as lawn mowers, is properly prepared for winter storage.


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