Winter Gardening Tips

The night was clear and frosty, all ebony of shadow and silver of snowy slope;
big stars were shining over the silent fields;
here and there the dark pointed firs stood up with snow powdering their branches and the wind whistling through them.
~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

Birds / Animals

  • take care of our feathered friends! Keep your bird feeder filled, especially when there is snow on the ground.
  • backyard birds eat rich, energy foods such as seeds, insect and suet to keep up their high metabolic rate
  • position feeders in sheltered location, out of the wind and in an area near cover but in the open to allow birds to watch for danger
  • water is still important for birds in the winter in the form of heated birdbaths to avoid freezing

Ice and Snow Season

  • keep it safe by keeping driveways and sidewalks safe to walk and drive on
  • choose ecofriendly salt alternative deicing products that are less damaging to plants and will still work to keep your walkways safe longer as they work better at lower temperature
  • broken branches shouldn’t be removed right away unless a hazard exists – wait until the end of the winter to reshape the plant to simulate new growth.  Take the broken branch back to the first buds or nodes and prune with a clean cut.  We want to create a clean cut so the plant is able to heal itself to avoid further damage from disease and insects
  • during cold weather, the ground freezes around the root system decreasing the plant’s ability to take up water.  Sunny weather and wind increases evaporation resulting in discoloured or ‘burned’ foliage.  Most leaves will fall or be pushed by new growth in the spring.  Be sure to water plants well in the fall and early winter before the ground freezes, or install windbreaks of burlap to protect small evergeens
  • Frost heaving is when periods of soil freezing and thawing push small, shallow-rooted plants (such as perennials) out of the ground – if a plant exposes it’s roots, replant it as soon as the soil thaws by pushing the plant back into the soft soil.  Applying mulch is a beneficial job in the fall to help reduce the alternate freezing and thawing of the soil
  • damage done by mice, voles and rabbits can be devastating and unfortunately, once the damage is done, there is not much that can be done.  Prevention is key by keeping mulch away from the base of the tree, adding a rodent guard such as a strip of white plastic around the trunk or spray with skoot.
  • salt from roadways can accumulate in the soil restricting nutrients, water and oxygen available to the plants putting them under stress.  Plants affected by salt show damaged tips and young leaves that are dried with burnt edges.  Flush the area around the plant in early spring to leach much of the salt from the soil or add gypsum for salt damage

Heavy Snow and Ice

  • prune trees in advance of winter to avoid heavy damage before the snows arrive
  • to eliminate bending and breaking due to heavy snows, wrap your upright junipers with one or two strands of twine each fall.  Wrap the twine in a spiral, starting at the base of the tree and working your way up the top.  The twine helps to hold the branches together and keep them from flopping open.  Once the danger of snowfall has passed, simply cut the twine off and allow the natural growth to resume.
  • after a storm, avoid shaking branches to remove the snow, instead gently sweep away the snow and if frozen, it should be left in place until the ice has melted allowing the snow to be brushed off
  • when sweeping, use upward motion loosening the snow and allowing it to fall to avoid breaking an already bent branch
  • never try to remove snow or ice from overhead branches!  Less danger of falling branches, ice on yourself and your vehicles

Enhancing a Winter Garden

  • when choosing plants for your garden, consider their contribution to the winter season.  Evergreens help to provide colour and frame views when the deciduous trees are leafless.  Plants such as birch, willow, red- and yellow-bark dogwoods provide contrasting coloured bark with white snows.
  • Leave some upright perennials standing through the winter for interesting seed heads and provide an additional food source for birds such as; sedums, coneflower and ornamental grasses
  • add some large accent features like landscape boulders, bird baths, statuary and containers filled with winter greens and branches
  • make sure containers are winter hardy and won’t creek
  • outdoor lighting will illuminate our dark winter nights and give the garden depth and dimension!  It will provide views from the windows.  Use uplights on interesting-branched trees and bushes, spot lights on wreaths or decorated urns, illuminate steps and walkways.