Fall garden cleanup is essential, one of the last chores to complete before winter arrives. Remove fallen leaves, spent growth of annuals and vegetables and compost cuttings if they are not diseased or show signs of insect infestations. For vegetable gardens, planting a cover crop is a good way to prevent soil erosion.

butterfly bush

Perennials can be cut back, leaving about a third of the height of stalks to help catch snow to insulate the crowns of the plants over the winter. However, do not prune roses or other shrubs at this time because it could promote a growth spurt which can be impacted by the upcoming cold. Restrict pruning now to long or damaged or diseased limbs that could break under the weight of snow or ice. Take care to not trim or prune Buddleia or butterfly bush now because doing so can cause winter damage to the hollow stems when they start growing in the spring.

Spread a layer of compost on ornamental and vegetable gardens after trimming and cleaning up beds. A layer of compost is easier to apply now than in the spring when it could damage tender shoots of plants. And it will be there so that plants can start using the slow-release nutrients as soon as they begin to grow. Continue to water newly-planted or transplanted shrubs, trees and perennials until the ground freezes.

A little work now will prep those gardens, enabling them to withstand whatever winter throws their way and will pay off big for next spring’s and summer’s growing seasons.