Surviving Winter’s Wrath: Preparing Your Garden for Winter Weather – Episode 005

In this episode, Bonnie Orr, a Chelan/Douglas County WSU Extension Master Gardener, discusses various strategies for preparing gardens for winter weather. She emphasizes the importance of understanding your local environment, including factors like sunlight exposure, climate patterns (such as El Niño or La Niña), and the unique features of your yard, such as slopes, trees, and shade.
episode 005 preparing for winter weather

Episode Description

In this episode, Bonnie Orr, a Chelan/Douglas County WSU Extension Master Gardener, discusses various strategies for preparing gardens for winter weather. She emphasizes the importance of understanding your local environment, including factors like sunlight exposure, climate patterns (such as El Niño or La Niña), and the unique features of your yard, such as slopes, trees, and shade.

Bonnie also provides practical tips for gardeners, such as correct planting depth, applying herbicides to control weeds, and lifting tender bulbs for winter storage. She discusses preventative measures to protect trees and plants from winter damage from wind and snow.  

Overall, the episode highlights the importance of thoughtful planning and environmentally conscious gardening practices to prepare for the challenges of winter weather.

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[00:00:00] Erin Landon: Welcome to the Evergreen Thumb. I’m your host, Erin Landon, a Washington State University Extension Master Gardener since 2015, and a certified permaculture designer and modern homesteader. I’m here to share up-to-date research-based horticulture and environmental stewardship knowledge to help you grow and manage your garden, and to share what the WSU Extension Master Gardener program is all about.

[00:00:24] WSU Extension Master Gardner volunteers are university-trained community educators who have been cultivating plants, people, and communities since 1973. Are you ready to grow? Let’s dig into today’s episode.

[00:00:45] Welcome to episode five of the Evergreen Thumb. My special guest today is Dr. Bonnie Orr. Bonnie is a WSU Extension Master Gardener in Chelan/ Douglas Counties. She has been a Master Gardener since 1996 and a Master Composter since 1993. Bonnie, welcome to the show.

[00:01:06] Bonnie Orr: Thank you.

[00:01:07] Erin Landon: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your gardening experience and how you became a master gardener?

[00:01:13] Bonnie Orr: I have gardened all my life and, um, I had moved to Wenatchee from Bend, Oregon, which had 43 frost free days a year and they were not contiguous. So there was not very much gardening. So I was so excited to move to Wenatchee, which has 175 days of growing season. Well, you can just imagine. Well, and I had heard about the Master Gardeners when they were first formed.

[00:01:44] But at that time I was in a job where I couldn’t take advantage of the training. But they started the training in 1996 here, and I was one of the original people in Chelan and Douglas County.

[00:01:57] Erin Landon: Okay, so today you’re going to tell us a bit about how to prepare our gardens for winter weather. So, let’s start with what are some things that gardeners need to think about when they’re preparing their gardens for winter.

[00:02:11] Bonnie Orr: You know, the first thing that people need to think about is their own home environment. Um, and I will give you an example of how sometimes people are not aware. People ask about growing tomatoes. Oh, my tomatoes are not doing anything this year. And I’ll say, how many hours of sunlight does your tomato get?

[00:02:32] Well, it’s light all day. Well, that’s not the same as how many hours of sunlight is on the ground. So, there is not necessarily an immediate understanding of some features that affect our environment. This winter, there is an El Nino predicted, and El Nino means that it’ll be warmer and drier. And it’s been an El Niña for the last three years, which has been colder and wetter.

[00:03:00] So that’s going to make a difference also for what happens. There is a fabulous site, WSU AgWeatherNet. It’s a free, it’s free to sign on to. You can um, you have to sign in, but it doesn’t cost you anything and it keeps you um, aware of what’s happening and better than that, it has historical records. And so I recommend that you look for your specific, um, area because every, I mean there’s lots and lots of recording stations around the state.

[00:03:34] So you will probably find something that’s very close to you. And you see, one of the things is, is that you have to look at your own sight. Do you have a slope? Where are fences? Where are trees? Where is shade? Where is full sun? And those things are going to influence how much frost you are going to get into the ground.

Survey your yard

[00:03:56] So, taking a survey of what is actually happening in your yard is important. And as long as you’re taking a survey, you may want to take photographs of your yard at this point because it will remind you in the spring after the kindness of time that you have places that you really want to change and you will have forgotten exactly where they were or how awful They were at that time, so make sure you have photographs of your your yard also.

[00:04:27] So finding, finding how your your lot is set and like I have a slope between my front yard and my backyard, so my backyard is going to collect a lot more frost than my front yard is going to. This is also important when people have pots, and I know that many people on the west side have huge pots with perennial plants in them that can suffer tremendously when it gets cold, because those pots freeze all the way through, and some of them are not actually very movable into the garage.

[00:05:02] So knowing where your, your shady spots are, like if your garage juts out from your house, you have a nice little triangle to hide things in for, for the winter. That’s just an example. Also do you have areas where there is rock mulch and I’m going to talk about mulches later on, but rock mulch is a, is a permanent landscape feature and the rock mulch absorbs Sunlight during the winter and will also help to keep the ground warmer.

Understanding Your Soil

[00:05:33] And also the next thing is soil. What kind of soil do you have? Some soils hold water more effectively than other soils and the amount of soil, um, moisture is going to affect the type of freezing that you get in, in your soil, in, in your garden. Uh, there are some things here that you can do even before you start thinking seriously about about protection.

[00:06:00] One is, are you gonna plant fall bulbs? Are you going to plant spring blooming bulbs, narcissus, daffodils, tulips? People always say to me, you know, it’s really weird. All of my yellow tulips turned red, and I don’t understand why. Well, it’s, that’s genetically impossible. What really happened is that the yellow ones died out, and the red ones persisted.

[00:06:31] Most likely, the red ones are hardier. But more than that, it depends on how you have planted them. When it says plant six inches deep, it means six inches. Not kind of down where you can get to it. Because, in our, on our side of the mountains, we lose tulips because the soil gets too warm in the summer. So we have to mulch those areas.

[00:06:56] But overall, in the winter, the soil generally does not freeze below four inches, most likely six inches when it’s really, really cold. When I have put down mulch, uh, and I will talk about again that much, when I put down mulch, I can dig down into my soil, and my soil many times is not frozen at all, even though the temperatures have been close to zero for a week or more.

[00:07:26] Knowing the freeze, what level of freeze your ground is going to have, is going to influence also how you plant things. So those fall bulbs, absolutely plant them as deep as they say they should be planted. The next thing is going on slug patrol. And slugs and, um, and snails to a certain extent, lay, they are very, very deep in the soil during the winter.

Pest and Weed Control

[00:07:51] And so putting out slug bait in the fall is a really good idea, but even better than that is to roll over stones or pick up debris from the garden and pick up those little white eggs that look like pearl tapioca. Because you will, if you do not pick them up, they will hatch and work their way down into the ground where they can live several feet into the ground.

[00:08:16] Pretty amazing, huh? So going on slug patrol is, is, is important as you are planting those bulbs. This is also the time to apply herbicide to awful nuisance weeds, such as horsetail and field bindweed, because the plants are pulling nutrients down into those deep roots that they have, and so if you apply herbicide in the fall, Again in the spring, and then again next fall, you most of the time can beat them back.

[00:08:49] So that’s definitely something to get, help you get ready for the winter, is to start working on horsetail, field bindweed, things that, that annoy people to no end, and spread rapidly in people’s gardens.

Tender Bulbs

At the end of October, you should start doing the thing where you start to lift The tender bulbs, the freesias, the gladiolas, I don’t know where everybody lives, but I do know that many bulbs like calla lilies and canna lilies, those rhizomes, and so I’m going to call them bulbs, but they’re rhizomes and corms, some of those can be lifted, put into pet bedding and be kept slightly moist In the garage, or wherever you can make it 40 degrees.

[00:09:40] They like to be kept cool enough, because the soil at 6 inches is 40 degrees. But, the tender bulbs want to be at 45. They want to be warmer during the winter. So, gathering up your tender bulbs, rhizomes, corms, et cetera, is another first step that you do as you prepare for getting ready for winter. And then, something else that I just think is so important as you prepare for winter, do lots of weeding.

[00:10:13] It’s too hot during the summer to do lots of weeding many times, and the weeds begin to get ahead of you, especially some of the perennial weeds, such as quackgrass or oxalis. And this is the time to start digging them out, and it will help in the spring because you will have less to deal with in, in the spring.

[00:10:33] Especially quack, quackgrass. Which is the grass that has the long white, um, uh, rhizomes underneath the ground, or the roots, excuse me, the roots underneath the ground that you can pull out for, oh, for yards, it seems. It’s so satisfying to pull those out. You want to divide your summer blooming perennials, this is in September, and that way what happens is that they will continue to grow roots until the ground reaches 40 degrees, and depending on where you live, that 40 degrees could be at the end of October or could be at the end of November, just depending on where you live. But, um, dividing the perennials and allowing them to grow new roots to get themselves established is really important. That’s also why you plant bulbs, spring blooming bulbs in September, is because you want to give them a chance to grow roots for at least six weeks.

[00:11:37] This is the time to make new perennial bulbs, uh, beds, since you’ve divided your perennials. This is the time to dig out turf or whatever else you’re going to do amending your soil. This is a perfect time to add compost so that you can be again prepared in the spring. Spring gardening is so much more difficult than fall gardening because the ground is cold and it’s wet and it’s much harder to deal with. It is just a delight to do all these major, big, heavy projects in October or in September. It’s um, it makes gardening fun.

Preparing Roses for Winter Weather

[00:12:15] Pruning roses. So. Oh, there is so, I teach rose pruning classes for the master gardeners here and I’ve grown roses myself. There are many, many things about roses. There’s lots of old wives’ tales about roses. Everybody has their way of growing roses. Here’s some basics. If you live on the east side of the Cascades. You want to prune roses, um, after the first frost, you want to prune them to knee high. If you are on the west side of the mountains, you probably want to prune them about eight or ten inches to the ground.

[00:12:59] And the reason that you have the longer canes on the east side of the mountains is because if the snow That’s really heavy or the wind because we have as much wind as we have as we have snow. The wind can break the canes and then you have nothing. So that’s why you do you do it to knee high and then in the spring anything that has died down because of frost or anything else, you have something to work with.

[00:13:28] Whereas if you start with just little nubbins of six inches on the east side, you have nothing to work with. So pruning roses is a, is a great thing to do after the frost. Pick up all the leaves. I mean, that’s just doing basic sanitation, making sure that, um, any type of insect eggs or any type of fungal diseases is, is gone from the ground in that way, it used to be.

[00:13:54] When I first moved in the 1980s to Wenatchee that we used to mulch our roses. I mean, like with 10 inches of straw mulch, we don’t even mulch anymore because we were zone four or five. We’re now zone seven. And, um, so mulching roses is, is a personal choice if you wish to do it, because again, the ground does not freeze deep enough to kill the big roots for the roses.

Snow Damage

[00:14:23] So, now, let’s talk about how we prepare for some of the things that, that the wind and the snow can do, can damage. One of the things you want to do is you want to re-tie your climbing roses and re-tie your clematis or other types of climbing vines because they can be blown down and then, and then broken.

[00:14:47] So, that would be. It used to be that people wrapped their arborvitae, their Chamaecyparis, some of those other hedge-type plants, they would wrap them with either burlap or they would wrap them with netting of some kind. It is just a heck of a lot of work. And it didn’t really make that much difference in the long run.

[00:15:15] The way to protect those hedging plants is to prune them so there are not long, wispy, uh, branches hanging out. If you, if you prune them close enough, then there is nothing for the snow to collect. Bagging those is, is passe now. I, I really do believe that. Okay.

[00:15:38] Emptying pots. If you have big, fancy pots, Emptying them and turning them upside down so no water gets in them because if it freezes, either the glaze on the pot is going to break, or else the pot itself will break. If you have really large perennial things, like roses, in pots, rose standards, they are going to either have to be in one of your secluded nooks, but again, they’re going to have to be kept dry. Because if you get a snap freeze, it will kill the roots of the plant, plus break your beautiful pot.

[00:16:13] So, um, maybe parking outside for the winter and having your plants inside the garage would be a trade-off that somebody might be willing to make. You could ask your spouse about that. That may or may not work. You can also sink large pots. clay pots into the soil. After you have harvested your vegetable garden, you dig deep, deep holes, and you sink those pots in and then that prevents them from freezing also, even though, even if they get wet during, during the winter.

[00:16:43] And then one of the things that we have to be careful of here, and I believe that there are a number of places on the west side, and that’s deer predation. The deer get hungry and, um, we are building into areas which have been traditional places where the deer have lived.

[00:17:01] So, this could be one of the few really good uses for Arborvitae is to, uh, is to have the, um, Let’s have the deer snack on that, um, you know, use that as a, something to lure them out of the rest of the part of your garden. Um, again, one of the things you do to prevent deer from entering the garden is you take hog wire, which is a type of fencing, metal fencing, but you don’t put it upright.

[00:17:30] When you put it upright, the deer leap over it. You put it on the ground so that it is about five feet wide on the ground and as the deer start to walk toward the yummy things in your garden, They feel it and their feet there. They are afraid their feet will get caught And so they back out and stay away from it and it is an effective deer guard in that way. So, even if the, you can spread it on your lawn, around that particular flower bed, around your roses or whatever, and then, um, even if the grass grows up through it, it doesn’t matter because the deer can still feel it. You can take it up in the spring, or it can be a permanent part of your, of your landscape.

Mulching to Insulate Against Winter Weather

[00:18:16] Okay, let’s talk about mulching. There are many, many ways to mulch, and there are many reasons to mulch. So, the ground doesn’t generally freeze below 4 inches. At the very most on, on plain, um, ground with no, no vegetation at all.

[00:18:41] It could be 6 inches deep. I mulch six to eight inches on a number of different plants that I want to protect. And when I dig down my The ground is either not frozen or frozen to the two-inch level. So mulch, you can start gathering up leaves and you can gather leaves and run the lawn mower over them so they’re slightly smaller pieces.

[00:19:11] Grass clippings and leaves mixed together are really a fabulous type of mulch. One of the things that’s really cool about it, is that all of the little wee beasties that live in your soil, all the microorganisms, all of those little guys, and they actually break down huge amounts of your mulch. For my particular garden, I live in East Wenatchee, and it’s sand.

[00:19:40] Oh, it was sand. My sand is now filled with organic material because the earthworms bring that material down as well as all the other wee beasties who chewed up things and, and took them in. So you are enriching your soil as well as protecting the roots of your plants. You can also use straw. Uh, uh, you can put straw down at six inches or you can also, uh, uh, grind it up with a lawnmower.

[00:20:09] Um, and that is one of the ways of protecting them. And it’s really interesting because I have been able to, with mulch, calla lilies, which are considered to be a, a delicate corm, Actually, um, I have been able to get them to persist and perennialize by using mulch. And so, I believe in mulch and I, um, just because it does good things with your soil.

[00:20:34] You can also use mulch in your vegetable garden. I have a winter garden, um, in August, at the beginning of August, I plant beets and kale and spinach and carrots. And by the time the frost comes, they are mature enough to actually start to harvest. Well, when, um, then I cover them with my mulch. And so then it snows on top of it for me and I dig down, it’s never frozen in and there’s nothing, nothing like a February morning when you go out and you dig down and it’s not just The wonderful sweet carrot you’re getting, you get the smell of the soil.

[00:21:19] And that’s is enough to sort of keep you going until spring. And so, so mulching, mulching your vegetable garden also works, um, really well. Um, you can, if you, you have to dig it down a much deeper, if you want to mulch potatoes, potatoes have to go down about a foot, but, um, because they, they fill in the hole too quickly otherwise.

[00:21:44] But anyway, so mulching, mulching, um, improves the soil and you, and it also, um, makes it really easy to be able to look for pest. It makes it easy because you can dig down and look around. You can continue to weed under the mulch if necessary. So I’m, I’m a big proponent of, of organic mulches. Um, not so much ,I’m not a big fan of, of bark because with bark you have to be able to put down some type of a barrier on your soil. And then you put the bark on top of it, because otherwise the bark will, um, leach the nitrogen out of your soil, and you don’t want that to happen. But, the terrible thing about bark is that when it breaks down, it’s on top of this landscape fabric, and it doesn’t, and your mulch does not actually enrich your soil.

[00:22:41] So, any kind of leaf will do. There is an old wives tale that, that, um, that’s probably not even PC to say anymore, old wives tale, is it? You have to say, there is a traditional way of saying things that, like, oh, you know, pine straw will make your soil acid. Well, that is not true at all. I’m a master composter as well, okay? And, when, when pine straw breaks down when pine needles break down, they are absolutely neutral. In the same way that some people don’t use coffee grounds as a, as a mulch, or else they think they should use coffee grounds like on blueberries because they’re acid, coffee grounds are totally neutral. It is just your tummy that thinks that they are acid, so you can use, you can use coffee grounds, you can use pine straw, I mean you can use all sorts of organic materials for, for your mulch.

[00:23:43] One of the things is if you do not have a deciduous tree in your yard, many times people bag up their leaves and put them in big black plastic bags and put them on the curb for waste management to pick them. Pick up. Well, you go out in the dark of the night and you can pick up as many leaves as you could possibly want.

[00:24:04] And, um, it’s, it is, and we actually even have a hotline going, Hey, listen, the apartment’s down on 13th. They put out their bags and the next day they’re all gone. So anyway, there are ways to find, to find the leaves.

[00:24:21] So, um, now I want to talk about, um, protecting from heavy snowfall and it’s trees many times that are broken. And there are two types of trees that get broken. This last year we had a really unusual winter in on the east side. What happened is that it, the days were in the seventies until the end of November and on December 2nd. It snowed. It snowed about eight inches and it also got cold. And the trees had not finished their abscission, which means that they did not, the leaves were not ready to fall from the tree.

[00:25:06] So, the leaves stayed on the tree all winter, and we had more heavy snow in January, and that stayed on for pretty much the winter, and that broke leaves, the leaves held the snow on the branches, which increased the load for the branches, and branches broke. That’s a really unusual occurrence, but if you do have a tree with long, loppy branches, such as a, um, such as a flowering plum, or a weeping birch, with these long, poorly attached limbs, or if your tree has been topped at some time, a topped tree grows a profusion of branches, And these branches are poorly attached to the trunk of the tree and they are liable to be broken also.

[00:26:02] And so not topping trees is a way to prevent that. The other way that tree limbs break is that the tree no longer has its natural shape. And this is particularly true with conifers. People want to limb up a conifer. Now, a conifer was designed to be gracefully limbed all the way to the ground. It provides shelter for animals and birds and everything else, but people want to have a vista, or people want to have a flowerbed under it, or something, and so they limb the conifers up, and they do the same thing with deciduous.

[00:26:42] So when the heavy snow comes, On a conifer, for instance, the snow falls down and goes from branch to branch to branch to branch. And what happens is that the branches guide the snow down to the ground. But if it has been limbed up, there is an abrupt end to this snow, and it collects on that last layer, and it, which is the closest to the ground, and then it breaks, it breaks the branches.

[00:27:13] So, keeping the natural shape of a tree and not topping trees is the very best way to protect trees from being, um, damaged by, by snow or by snow load. Also, if the branches are, uh, you have a lot of snow and the branches have bent down to the ground, do not shake the branches. You, if you are absolutely sure that you have to do something with the snow, use a broom and very carefully sweep it off.

[00:27:48] Never, never, um, shake the branches because the branches are frozen and that will snap them off again. The natural shape is what is going to make the difference between them succeeding through a bad winter and not succeeding. You know, our climate, our climate is changing. It’s hotter, it’s drier, there’s lots of things going on.

[00:28:12] And in our area on the east side, people still want to grow Cornus floridia, which is the dogwood tree. You know, the flowering dogwood with the pink blossoms or the white blossoms or whatever. And, it is not a tree that is designed for over here. It is designed as an understory tree. That’s, that’s how Mother Nature, um, originally produced it.

[00:28:36] Especially on the East Coast, because it’s called floridia, right? Well, anyway, no that’s not true, it’s actually, floridia is because of the flowers. But, anyway, it’s from the East Coast. And it’s an understory tree. What happens, is that people plant them in the center of their lawns. And, The tree, during the summer, the edges of the leaves become brown because the tree is not designed to be able to draw enough water up in order to keep the entire leaf area green and moist.

[00:29:09] So, every one of the leaves is brown and crisp and, quite frankly, unattractive. So, people many times just water, water, water, water, water, we want to water more. Well, that causes another problem, and that causes root rot because the tree cannot draw any more water up, no matter what. And it’s the same with variegated beeches.

[00:29:32] So those are two trees on our side, uh, this, on the east side, which, um, which are at high risk with the increased heat and dryness it’s going to be the same.

[00:29:44] Landscape opportunities is what I’m going to call them, because there are going to be trees that have always flourished on the west side, which are not going to be able to handle the heat, and are not going to be able to handle the dry, the drier climate, and those trees will not thrive, and you can either have Those trees be unattractive for much of their growing season, or you can use the chainsaw at the base and take advantage of a landscape opportunity.

[00:30:18] Bring in something different that you’ve always wanted to grow anyway. That is adjusted in, in real life to heat and drought. These landscape opportunities don’t come along very often, you know.

[00:30:32] Erin Landon: What are some effective strategies to protect, um, delicate plants and shrubs from heavy snowfall?

[00:30:40] Bonnie Orr: Okay, so growing the right plants.

[00:30:44] That is the strategy. Okay. There are no, no others. I, I talked about re-tying climbing roses, re-tying clematis, but there, do you have a particular plant in, in thought?

[00:30:57] Erin Landon: I know we have Escalonia which does get some frost damage.

[00:31:03] Bonnie Orr: And is it in areas that are not pruned off? You cannot prune it off?

[00:31:09] Erin Landon: Oh, I usually do prune it off.

[00:31:11] Bonnie Orr: Okay, well then, then that’s, and that’s essentially what it is, because we, we can’t control the weather. I’m the daughter of a, a meteorologist, and I know you cannot control the weather, and so what we do is we plant different things that based on what we anticipate and who knows, we do have no idea what the weather is going to be.

[00:31:36] Um, as I said, in the, in the last, um, 35 years, the area I garden has gone from zone four, five to zone seven, but this, and this last, um, winter, we’ve not even gone down to zone six for, um, you know, the USDA, they have not even gone to, down to a zone six. Also. Most people are probably aware of the American Horticultural Society has the heat zones.

[00:32:08] The heat zones are really important because we’ve always said, well, this is the cold and based on your last day of frost. But the heat zones, which were developed. Again, it’s based on how well a plant can pull water up. So if you’re growing things outside of your heat zone, the plant will not thrive. And there are 12 heat zones altogether.

[00:32:38] If you were going to buy new landscape plants. One of the things you may want to do is make sure that you can find out if it has been registered for a heat zone as well as a cold zone because you could be planting the wrong plant. So, although I’m not directly answering your question, I am answering your question because if the plant is already in your landscape and it is not designed for the weather that is happening, then it’s time to kiss that plant goodbye.

[00:33:11] Erin Landon: It goes back to what we were taught from the very beginning with the right plant in the right place.

[00:33:16] Bonnie Orr: That’s right. That’s right. You know, we have, uh, rhodies are, are, you know, just absolutely sumptuous over on the west side and they really struggle in, um, in on our side because of the cold wind during the winter.

[00:33:31] And it’s not necessarily cold wind. It is really the wind which desiccates the leaves. And there’s not enough soil moisture to, um, be able to keep them green and lush. And so there always are burned leaves on rhododendrons here. Uh, unless you are growing them in the exact, that little corner between where your garage sticks out and your house goes, that wonderful little protected area, that’s it.

[00:33:58] So, if you want to grow some of these plants, you may want to build a new house. And put in all sorts of little nooks to protect your plants. Yeah, that might be a little extreme. Do you think? No,

[00:34:11] Erin Landon: I just built a new house.

[00:34:14] Bonnie Orr: I hope you put in lots of nooks. You know, I’m going to talk about another thing about getting ready for winter.

Cleaning up Before Winter Weather

[00:34:23] And there is this Inherent sense of tidiness in which you must cut your lawn really short and you must cut down all of the plants so, so everything looks absolutely tidy and quite frankly sterile. Okay, but tidy? Well, this is not an ecologically sound way for plants to get around winter. First of all, most plants have seeds, and birds eat seeds, and so do all sorts of insects and all sorts of other little critters eat seeds.

[00:35:02] They also need places to hide from the cold. And so heaped over grass, you know, ornamental grasses, heaped over ornamental grasses are great little places for things to hide. It also protects the crowns of the plants. People cut off their decorative… Grasses, because they don’t want them to flop over, but I happen to think that decorative grasses such as fountain grass are stunning covered with frost and with snow.

[00:35:33] I mean, they’re just absolutely beautiful, but more than anything else, it provides a secure little place for all sorts of our environmental helpers to live. So cleaning out your yard to nubbins is not ecologically sound. And, here’s the other great thing, when you finally do clean it up in March, guess what?

[00:35:55] It’s about 70 percent less material you have to deal with because it’s all evaporated. So that’s, that’s even better, you know, you have less stuff to, to deal with. I, right now in September, I have stopped, um, deadheading my zinnias and my echinacea. Because I have six different species of birds that land on the tops of those plants and eat the seeds all winter long until they are gone.

[00:36:25] Okay? And they are dead flower heads, but I’ll tell you, it is a joy to watch all the little birds eating on them. It’s a natural looking. It is not natural to absolutely scalp everything.

Preparing Lawn for Winter Weather

[00:36:42] Lawns. Okay, so, lawns. Probably should be cut to about two and a half inches, okay? Or, or three, depending on the grass type you have so it doesn’t absolutely flop over. But, um, a longer lawn is going to protect your, um, the crowns of the plant from dying. The big problems with lawns is that people add Fall fertilizer, because they have been told by people who sell fertilizer that this is essential, but it is not essential. In fact, we worry about it here because it runs through into the groundwater and into the Columbia river. Which doesn’t help anybody. When the plant no longer is growing, it is no longer absorbing the NPK. So, the other thing is, is that we have found that lawns, which are fertilized in the fall, have a much higher incidence of snow mold. Which is a fungal disease. Which goes away when the sun, and there’s nothing to treat it with in the, in the early spring.

[00:37:51] You just put up with, you know, all the brownness, and then it, it’ll outgrow it. You don’t have to spray anything on it to get rid of the snow mold. But you don’t even need the snow mold if you are not using a fall fertilizer. One of the things is, is that the ground is going to freeze on lawns. more readily because you cannot mulch a lawn.

[00:38:14] And if you have a lawn which is not watered, um, in an appropriate manner and the roots are very narrow, and the way that that happens sometimes is lawns have not been thatched, and when lawns are not thatched, the roots cannot grow through the thatch to get down to water and also to fertilizer, so they’re So it’s not a healthy lawn.

[00:38:39] Well, those lawns are also going to be more likely to be burned by frost or to be killed by, by freezing. Whereas, as I said, you know, after about four inches, the ground doesn’t freeze. So if you have lawns with six-inch deep roots, they’re, they’re happy as Larry, you know, they’re, they’re going to be fine.

[00:38:59] And so, um, uh, and again, not cut, if you cut the lawn down to one inch, you are again exposing those crowns.

[00:39:09] Erin Landon: Great. Thank you so much, Bonnie. That’s a lot of information. I’m sure a lot of people will find it very useful. Are there any last-minute thoughts you’d like to add?

[00:39:18] Bonnie Orr: I think you can enjoy gardening year-round.

[00:39:21] That’s why I have my, that’s why I have my fall vegetables, uh, planted and everything, you know, you know, when you are planting some of the bulbs that bloom in the spring. Um, little bulbs like, um, little crocus and grape hyacinths, you plant them now in September in soil and put them in the refrigerator September and in 12 weeks it’ll be Christmas.

[00:39:47] You take them out in about 10 weeks, they will have grown roots and they will bloom in time for Christmas.

[00:39:53] Erin Landon: Oh, how fun.

[00:39:53] Bonnie Orr: Because it takes about 12 weeks for them to mature like that.

[00:39:58] Erin Landon: Well, I will put links to the AgWeatherNet and to the Horticultural Society’s Heat zones.

[00:40:05] Bonnie Orr: American Horticulture Society. Yeah.

[00:40:07] Yeah.

[00:40:08] Erin Landon: I will put links to that in the show notes so people can find that. All right. Thank you so much for being here, Bonnie.

[00:40:14] Bonnie Orr: Well, thank you. It was a pleasure.

[00:40:17] Erin Landon: Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Evergreen Thumb brought to you by the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program volunteers and sponsored by the Master Gardener Foundation of Washington State.

[00:40:28] We hope that today’s discussion has inspired and equipped you with valuable insights to nurture your garden. The Master Gardener Foundation of Washington State is a nonprofit organization whose primary purpose is to provide unifying support and advocacy. For WSU Extension Master Gardner programs throughout Washington State.

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