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

Getting Yard and Garden Set for Winter

October 21, 1999

Most of the first half of October has featured sunny, warm days. But scraping frost off the car window this week has reminded us winter is getting closer. The next month or so is an important time for getting yard and garden plantings ready.

Certainly cleanup is tops on the list for the next few weeks. Besides just cleaning up leaves and plant parts, making notes of plant performance, location, and problems can help prepare for next season. This is especially helpful with vegetable plants, annuals, and perennial flower plantings. 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. Most ornamental grasses provide interesting winter foliage effects when left standing.

It's best to wait awhile before mulching perennials and strawberries. Winter mulches are suggested to help protect perennial flower plantings and strawberry beds from alternating freezing and thawing cycles over the winter. Wait until about Thanksgiving or later so the plants have gone dormant and the soil freezes to apply the mulches, 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 poultry wire or hardware cloth, is the best defense. Put a fence around shrubs, and secure with a few stakes. Put a loose cylinder of hardware cloth around the trunk base of younger trees susceptible to mouse or rabbit gnawing.

As mentioned over the past few weeks, continue to monitor plantings, in particular evergreens, for the need to water. Rains of late September have helped, but keep in mind the soil can still become quite dry. 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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