Winter is quickly approaching here in Montreal. The air is deeply chilled and the trees are almost all de-leafed, leaving a carpet of foliage on lawns and lots all over the city.
Last week, I helped a lovely small gardening company close and prepare a few gardens for the winter. Now, you may be wondering what a garden requires before the winter season…and to be truthful, there’s not a whole lot that is required. Old growth forests certainly haven’t had people coming in and preparing their landscapes before the frosts yet they are renewed year after year.
Which is why I was a little disheartened (yet unsurprised) when much of the work I did that day entailed raking and removing fallen leaves (as per request of the clients).
Imagine you are very hungry and so you decide to cook a meal for yourself. You carefully select all the ingredients you want to eat – and you’re choosing the good stuff. You slice everything up carefully, season to your taste and are about to chow down. Bon apetit, you say to yourself.
And just then at the last minute, someone comes along, bags up your entire meal and takes it away. How sad!
That’s pretty much what we’re doing when we rake the leaves and leave the earth uncovered during the winter months. Dead leaves and such provide carbon-rich material that is essential for the composting process. They greatly assist and allow for soil development and can be a real asset to a garden, rather than a nuisance if you know how to use them.
So if you’re in an area about to go into a winter frost, here are three basic ideas on how to prepare and protect your garden before the snowfall.
- Shred leaves instead of bagging them and sending them away.
If you’re concerned about your property looking unkempt but don’t want to throw away the gold your garden has produced, shredding leaves is an awesome solution. Not only do shredded leaves accelerate the composting process, they can be easily added to garden beds and are more manageable to use as mulching for ground covering. And while we’re on the topic of mulching…
- Mulching is key.
Ground covering is elemental to weed prevention and for insulating fragile root systems. Mulch is simply a layer of organic material that lies atop the soil. Instead of buying it from the store which can be incredibly costly, especially if you have a lot of area to cover, shredded leaves mixed with other processed garden material are an effective and neat looking way to protect your garden while developing the quality of your soil. It looks good and is effective.
Sidenote: save shredded some shredded leaves aside covered, and you’ll develop useful healthy “leaf mold”, a nutrient rich mixture that should smell like a walk through the forest once the process is complete. Add this mixture to garden beds and come spring and your garden will be rejoicing!
- Insulate root systems.
Be sure to pile a mound of soil around the base of any plants that you know are finicky, for example those prized roses – 2 feet of soil around the base helps to ensure the roots will survive the frosts. No need to compact the soil either, airflow is important.
Enjoy the apparent dormancy period of your garden. You can’t see it, but now the garden is about to rest right before a lot of microbial activity happens.
Best wishes and happy winter gardens to you all!
P.s. depending on the kind of garden you have, there are more things you can do for it to give yourself a head-start in the spring. If you’re interested, a quick Google search or an email to me will render results.
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