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

Weather Changes Gardening Mindset

October 16, 1997

Summerlike weather for most of fall has lulled many of us away from thinking about the winter months ahead. With a sudden change in conditions this week, it's back to reality and the fact we should be preparing yards and gardens for winter.

Yard and garden cleanup is tops on the list for the next few weeks. Before removing the last of the vegetable plants, make a sketch of specific planting locations, along with notes on performances, to help in planning next year. Make similar notations on annual and perennial flower plantings and also remove dead plant material. For perennials, 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.

Winter mulches are suggested to help protect perennial flower plantings and strawberry beds from alternating freezing and thawing cycles over the winter. Wait until the plants have gone dormant and the soil freezes to apply the mulches, such as about Thanksgiving or later, rather than applying now. Straw or evergreen boughs make good winter mulches.

Shrubs and smaller trees may need protection from rabbits or mice over the winter. Putting up a barrier, such as poultrywire or hardware cloth, is the best defense. Put up a poultrywire fence around shrubs, and secure with a few stakes. Loosely wrap the trunk base of younger trees susceptible to mouse or rabbit gnawing with hardware cloth. Anticipate the depth of snowfall when putting out these barriers.

As mentioned over the past few weeks, continue to monitor plantings, in particular evergreens, for the need to water. Rains of this week have helped, but keep in mind the soil has become quite dry over the past several weeks. Also, rainfall may increase lawn growth, so be sure to continue mowing over the next few weeks until growth stops.

Finally, 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!


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