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Winterize your garden for healthier, more beautiful results next year

Your garden served you faithfully throughout spring and summer. Now that fall is almost here, it's time to return the favor with some serious winter prep. You might even consider adding a little pizazz in the form of some colorful, hearty fall blooms.

Get those bulbs planted now for blossoms and color come springWinterizing your garden gives you a head start on spring growth, but sometimes it's confusing to know what to do when. For example, pruning and cutting back plants seems like the right thing to do in the fall, but depending on the species, it might not be the best time. Read on for some straight forward advice.

Clean-Up

It’s time to pull weeds, remove annuals (unless they are still blooming) and dig out those non-hearty bulbs like begonias, dahlias and gladiolas. Store them in a paper bag in a cool, dark place (attic or basement) for the winter. It’s important to remove all refuse from your garden – and if you’re not already composting, now would be a good time to start.

Cut Back

Before winter winds and storms begin it makes sense to remove dead limbs and branches from the trees surrounding your home and garden. It’s also the best time to protect your less hearty, or younger, evergreens. Tie and wrap them in burlap, or cage them wire mesh and bubble wrap.

Most perennials should be cut back to within six inches of the ground before winter sets in, with the exception of hydrangeas, European ginger, bishop's hat, ferns, Lenten rose, and ornamental grasses.

Water

Give your garden good, deep water before the first freeze to ensure an adequate amount of moisture through the winter months.

Mulch

While mulching to protect plants and shrubs from harsh winter conditions is beneficial, doing it too early could be an invitation for small pests and insects to move in and set up house. To discourage these unwanted winterers, wait until after the first freeze to apply the mulch – or better yet, skip the mulch all together and provide an extra layer or two of soil for protection.

Container plants should be moved indoors for the season, but if yours are too large or heavy, wrap and/or mulch them to protect from wind, snow and ice.

Plant

Finally, fall isn't just a time of removal and clean-up. You can perk up your late fall and early winter landscape by adding a burst of color, with hearty mums, and other low-cost annuals -- which depending on your growing zone can provide up to several months of fall/winter color to your garden. Or, think ahead and get those bulbs planted now so you’ll have fresh blossoms and color blooming come spring.

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