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Shutting Down Gardens for the Winter

AS Stone Pathway

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We hope you’re all planning on keeping your outdoor spaces vibrant with Lush Winter Containers, but in the mean time, it’s likely that you’ve got some plants and shrubs that are starting to look tired and unkempt in the recent cold weather. Besides the fact that dying plants diminish the aesthetic of your space, they also require proper care and preparation to be optimized for growth in the spring. Following are three important things to do to properly shut down your outdoor area for the winter.


Irrigation Maintenance

If you have an outdoor irrigation system, shutting it down properly is the most important step of your winter garden preparations. There are two sub-steps to shutting down irrigation systems: (1) shutting off the water, and (2) draining the pipes. If you have an automatic sprinkler system, step 1 can be as easy as turning the controller off, or to “rain mode.” If your system is manual, locate and turn the main shut-off valve to the sprinkler supply line.

If you have a system with automatic drain valves, you can clear them out by shutting off the water supply and then activating a sprinkler. This will automatically drain the valves in the system. If you have a manually draining system, open the manual drain valve slowly (to keep the pressure from accidentally blasting you with water…yikes!). Then, open the “stop and waste” valve, and check all of your valves to see if there is any remaining water in the system. If you’re worried about properly draining your system, or intimidated by the process, the easiest way to complete any of these steps is to have your system “blown out” with compressed air by a professional specialist.

Clean Up, Cut Back

Cleaning up your plants for the winter isn’t just important for aesthetic reasons—you don’t want your declining foliage to attract unwanted bugs, birds, and critters to your space. This means pulling dead annuals and anything else that is clearly in decline. Any perennials you may have should be cut back as soon as there’s a frost, so that you don’t encourage any new growth that will be hit by a second frost. Woody plants and shrubs should be pruned only once they’re dormant, to keep them in optimal condition for the winter.

Spring Prep

Mulching properly is probably the most important preparative action you can take in the fall. Mulch keeps the roots of shrubs and perennials at a relatively uniform temperature, which keeps moisture from going back and forth between freezing and thawing. If you’ve got perennials, you’ll also want to keep them watered even if they’re dormant.

For more info, see our recent posts on Fall Planting and preparing for a Spring Landscape Project. To consult with a landscape specialist for additional help maintaining your space this winter, get in touch with Botanical Concepts Chicago.

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