This post is courtesy of one of our favorite landscape architects, Laurie Van Zandt of Utah. She does an excellent job at defining spaces, transitioning to indigenous vegetation and well, keeping outdoor living spaces at their best. Several area homes in Park City, Deer Valley, Eden and Huntsville bare her signature.
Putting Your Garden to 'Bed' for the Winter
Autumn in the Ogden Valley is amazing. The shadows are so defined, the light is amazing, the color show seems to go on and on. However, it can also be very fickle - one day has gorgeous blue skies and 'shorts and sweater weather', and the next day can be a wet soggy mess with freezing temperatures. This can make it difficult to know what to do and when to put your garden to 'bed' for the winter.
Fall Garden Preparation
There can be lot to do in the autumn garden to prepare for next spring's growing season. Usually fall clean ups will begin in mid to late October. Use sharpened, clean clippers to avoid spreading diseases. Sometimes perennials may still be in bloom, and it can seem too soon to cut them back when they are still showing so much green. The option can be to wait until spring to cut them back, but the new shoots will then be growing up through a soggy mass, and it can be much harder to clean the plant up. In general, cut all perennials and ornamental grasses to the ground. Fall is also the time to divide any spring blooming perennials that have gotten to be too big.
Shrubs and trees are easier to prune in the fall, as the foliage will have dropped. Prune out any crossing, dead or damaged branches. Shape the plants by cutting back overly long branches. Maintain a natural shape and avoid turning shrubs into 'balls' or 'boxes' unless you are desiring to create a hedge. Pull out all the spent plants in the vegetable garden. This is a good time to start a compost pile if you haven't already. Any garden art, furniture and planting containers that are not frost resistant should be stored inside.
Late autumn, before the ground freezes, is the best time to plant spring blooming bulbs. Tulips, daffodils, allium, and crocus among others, all do well in the Valley. Daffodils will be the least likely to be nibbled on by deer, and now come in a wider range of color. Pansies can also be planted at this time, will overwinter, and give an early spring bloom as soon as the snow melts.
Utah is one of the driest states in the nation, and our falls and early winters can often times have very little precipitation. Evergreens will suffer without regular water until the ground freezes. You will often see dead or dying spruce and pines in the spring after a particularly dry fall, even if we had an extremely wet winter. If the root ball is dry going into winter, evergreen trees and shrubs will struggle. To avoid this, after irrigation has been turned off, deep water pines, spruce and fir every two weeks or so until the ground is frozen unless there is significant rainfall.
Late Autumn and Winter gardens can be some of the most beautiful. Long shadows create such interesting patterns and texture against windswept snow. Landscape architecture elements such as stone walls, water features, obelisks and other sculptural pieces can add structure and silhouette. Evergreen foliage, interesting bark, rose hips and berries can add color and will also attract birds.
Laurie Van Zandt
The Ardent Gardener Landscape Design