All the know-how about pre­par­ing your gar­den for the win­ter­tide with use­ful in­sights from Harpreet Ah­luwalia of Earthly Cre­ations

The Ideal Home and Garden - - Contents - RE­SEARCH: SHRUTI JAIN

It’s time to win­ter-shield your gar­den

As win­ter ap­proaches and tem­per­a­tures drop, the plants are pre­par­ing for dor­mancy. They may look dead as a door­nail, but they’re sim­ply lay­ing low un­til the soil warms up and the days get long. Don’t be fooled by their si­lence - there are plenty of things go­ing on dur­ing the cold months. Newly trans­planted trees and shrubs and parts of peren­ni­als are fo­cus­ing on strength­en­ing their roots by tak­ing in nutri­tion from the soil. Even com­post piles will con­tinue to break down all win­ter. Sure, the mi­crobes and red­works work at a much slower pace, but they con­tinue to work none­the­less. Here are a few nec­es­sary and easy steps to keep your gar­den healthy and safe this win­ter.

Clean up the gar­den bed: Your gar­den be­comes a mess by the end of the sea­son. To clean it up is a big task. It is ad­vis­able to break up your gar­den bed into small ar­eas and start clean­ing one area at a time till all the ar­eas are cleaned.

Re­move rotting and dead plants: All dead fo­liage should be re­moved from gar­den beds. Some old plants can har­bour dis­ease, pests, and fun­guses. Re­move all dead plants and rot­ten fruit or veg­eta­bles from the soil sur­face or bury them in the gar­den. Bury­ing old plants in your gar­den also adds or­ganic to the soil, which is help­ful for other ex­ist­ing plants.

Add a layer of com­post or mulch: The con­stant freez­ing and thaw­ing of plants can be as harm­ful as cold tem­per­a­tures. Use mulch to limit dam­age by spread­ing three inches of mulch on the ground sur­round­ing plants to help main­tain a con­stant tem­per­a­ture. Many dis­eases and good pests are killed when the soil freezes in win­ter. Mulching the beds could pre­vent the soil from freez­ing com­pletely.

Test your soil: The on­set of win­ter is the best time to get a soil test. Part of your an­nual win­ter tasks should be to check and know where your soil stands in terms of nu­tri­ents. This is the time when you need to test your soil to de­ter­mine the pH level and how much lime and or­ganic mat­ter should be added to im­prove your soil. Lime is used to ad­just the soil pH. This is ben­e­fi­cial be­cause it has all win­ter to dis­solve into the soil. Gather fall leaves for mulching: Fall leaves are gar­dener’s gold pot es­pe­cially dur­ing the cold months. The main idea be­hind win­ter mulching is to keep the ground frozen by shield­ing it from the warmth of the sun. This may sound strange, as you would ex­pect that one wants to keep their plants warm. Well, a lit­tle warmth dur­ing the win­ter could cause your plants to be­gin grow­ing again and kill them once you have colder weather. Keep­ing your plants dor­mant can be achieved by mulching to en­sure that they do not have any pre­ma­ture growth. A gen­er­ous layer of shred­ded leaf mulch over the soil sur­face will en­able to sup­press weeds, re­tain mois­ture, and of­fer soil en­rich­ment as it de­com­poses, and en­cour­ages good or­gan­isms.

Clean and oil your gar­den tools: Gar­den­ers should keep their tools clean and well oiled. First wash them, if any rust is present then use sand­pa­per. Fi­nally, rub the sur­faces of your gar­den tools with light ma­chine oil to en­sure that the rust does not be­gin to form again over win­ter.

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