Make sure your perennials are ready for the cold of winter!

Now that Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas is on its way, it’s time to hurry up and prepare your perennials for winter (if you haven’t already). Here are some tips for getting your perennials ready for winter and reap the benefits until the spring.

When Should I Start Cutting Back Perennials?

After the first killing frost of fall, which depending on where you live may have already happened, you can start cutting back perennials to get them ready for winter. This typically occurs at the end of September or the beginning of October. Clean off any and all plant debris after the first frost to help cut down on soil borne diseases during the winter months.

How Can I Protect My Perennials?

Getting your perennials ready for winter isn’t too much work, as they really just need a healthy layer of mulch in the late fall. This helps stop the crowns of the plants from the freeze thaw pattern that is common throughout the late fall and early spring. The ground should be cold before you begin mulching, ideally with one to two inches of frost on the ground.

Straw, hay, and leaves are great mulches for protecting your perennials. Straw is a good insulator but it takes a long time to decompose once you’re done with it. Hay is great at insulating and composting. Leaves can be great mulch once they are shredded down, and they are a very cost effective choice. Mulch in a 4-6 inch deep layer to get your perennials ready for winter.

What About Water?

Even after the killing frost, it is important to keep your perennials watered until the ground completely freezes. Check the soil and see if it is dry an inch or so below the surface. If it is, water away.

Is There Anything I Should Do Next Time?

It’s too late now, but next year you should start preparing your perennials during the summer to make them hardier. Practice growing your plants lean by giving them the smallest amount of fertilizer possible. Don’t fertilize your plants after the middle of August and make sure to put lots of organic matter in your soil to help drainage along in soggy areas.

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