Fall perennial garden:
As the first frost starts to blacken the annuals and perennials, it is time for a major cleanup. Start by removing all annuals by the roots, if you can. Remove all dried up stems and foliage that look bad on all perennials; also clean up all leaf debris that has blown into the garden and pull or cut back all weeds. Some people like to leave ornamental grasses standing in the garden for a little structure and aesthetics during the winter months. As the snow hits these clumps, it smashes them down and breaks them up; as the winter winds pick up, it blows this debris all around the garden making it much harder to clean up in the spring. So we do recommend either cutting them or tying them up in the fall. Cutting them also keeps rodents from making nests in these clumps because they are more exposed to the weather. Pick up any limbs or twigs that have fallen, pull out any stakes or supports that were used on the perennials and store them for use next year. Move any decorative pots, statuary, or water feature items to the interior so they don’t crack in the cold weather.
Fertilize trees and shrubs:
By this of the year most trees and shrubs are in their dormant stage. This is the best time of year to fertilize them. For shrubs get a granular, slow-release fall / winter fertilizer applying it directly to the root zone for the snow and rain to move it into the ground over the winter. Be sure to use the amounts indicated on the product label, this will insure that the fertilizer will be at the plants root zone when the plant needs it in the spring. There are also products made for acid-loving plants such as hollies and evergreens. With trees the best way is tree spikes. These spikes are made just for trees and contain the nutrients and the micronutrients that the plants need to grow. These spikes are inserted in the ground at the drip line of the tree, check product label for the amount to be used according to the caliber of the tree.
By now we have had a hard frost and most of the leaves are off the trees, it is now time to winterize the roses they are now dormant. Most shrub roses such as Meidiland, Carefree, and Knockout roses are pretty tough plants and need minimal care. When leaves fall, promptly clean them up. Otherwise these leaves matt under the plants and will block rain from entering the soil. Be sure that the mulch layer is about 2 to 3 inches to protect from cold temperatures. Cut back any long top growth to prevent the winter winds from breaking them. Hybrid teas and any other grafted roses need more protection from the winter, Pile up soil or another organic material up against the bottom branches totally covering the graft to protect it against cold temperatures. Again cutting any long branches back so the winter winds do not break them; do not cut them shorter than 24 inches. With climbing roses make sure the canes are securely tied to their support and mound soil or mulch as high as possible to ensure that graft is well covered. Make sure all wire name tags are not cutting into the branches; as the plant grows you will have to loosen these wires so they do not cut into and girdle the branches.
Once the ground has frozen, spread a thick layer of mulch around root zone of shrubs to keep temperatures from fluctuating and causing any damage to the plants. Mulch is not intended to prevent the ground from freezing but keep the ground temperatures from fluctuating to keep from disturbing the root system. Rodents like to nest in deep loose mulch so wait until we have a good freeze by then they have found other nesting sites. Mulching of the perennial garden is very important to keep plants from heaving up from the frozen ground. It also insulates the soil from extreme temperatures.