In October, as temperatures drop and plants go into dormancy, it’s time to prepare for the long winter. Steps you take now will give your garden a better chance of rebounding in the spring.
Remove and discard all diseased or pest-ridden plants and debris that have fallen on the ground. Inspect your plants and trim off diseased parts. Pull up all annuals. Prune any dead branches from shrubs.
Start cutting back on watering so lawn will “go to sleep.” Do core aeration, fertilize and seed dead and thin patches. Rake leaves and remove debris and weeds.
Have your sprinkler system drained and blown out and plan for how you’ll do winter watering.
Our trees have taken a major hit the past few years due to radical temperature swings. Dead limbs that could become a safety hazard should be removed now. Late winter (February through March) is the best time for general pruning and shaping.
Many trees are susceptible to sunscald. Wrap the trunks of younger trees up to the first branches and leave on until early April. Mulch near the base of the tree, but not against it. Give trees a good watering before the first freeze.
Trees require additional water over the winter. The best time for winter watering is on warmer days, when the snow has melted, and the temperature is above 40 degrees.
Should you cut back perennials in the fall or spring?
Plants receive additional insulation and protection when foliage is left in place and snow-covered foliage can add winter interest.
Any diseased plants should be cut to the ground, removing as much of the infected material as possible.
Ornamental grasses, rabbitbrush, blue mist spirea, butterfly bush, Russian sage, agastache and other late bloomers shouldn’t be cut back until late February or early March. Birds appreciate seed heads and use foliage for shelter. Mulch heavily around perennials that may not be as cold hardy. Any recently planted perennials should not be cut back in the fall.
Remove spent vegetables, all foliage and roots. Clean vegetable cages, posts, stakes, trellises and garden tools. Disinfect before putting away for the season. (Use 1 gallon water plus half cup bleach.)
Working in compost is best done this time of year. Amending soil now with organic compost means less work when the growing season starts. Add a layer of mulch to reduce water loss and inhibit weeds.
Winter watering is a must to keep all your plants healthy. Lawns, perennial beds, shrubs and trees should be watered once or twice a month, taking into consideration the amount of moisture they’ve received from snow. This is especially important for newly planted trees, shrubs, and perennials.
When you have questions, Colorado State University Extension has research-based answers. The Help Desk is at 17 N. Spruce St will not be staffed regularly after Oct 9. You may still call or email but response may be delayed. As an alternative, contact eXtension Ask an Expert at https://ask.extension.org/ask with your gardening and food safety questions.