More Garden Questions Answered

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burlap wrapped evergreen

I have been receiving calls and emails with questions about gardening topics that are worth sharing with you:

Q: Is it time to wrap shrubs for winter?

A: We have had a really wet, cold spell followed by sunny days where the temperature final was in double digits. When fall temperatures are still fluctuating so much, it is still too early to wrap shrubs for the winter.

We want consistently cold weather before that task is started. In our area, timing is usually early to mid November.

Q: I have to do some garden renovation and need to move a shrub plus divide some perennials. Can I do this now?

A: Shrubs can be moved now that leaves have turned colour indicating that they have shut down for the winter. You can also move plants in early spring before new growth begins.

If you need to move an established tree or shrub and have the luxury of time, its best to do some root pruning in fall and move them next year.

Dividing perennials follows a similar timeframe. Once leaves start to die off, we know that plants are able to be worked on. As a general rule of thumb, spring blooming plants are divided in fall; fall bloomers are divided in spring; and summer flowering perennials can be done either spring or fall. If a plant is grown for foliage rather than flowers, e.g. Hosta, they can be divided either spring or fall.

Q: I want to plant some bulbs this fall so that I have spring colour in my garden. When is the best time to plant them?

A: Now that the ground has cooled off, you can plant your fall bulbs. Be sure to choose an area that is sunny enough for the bulbs you chose so they thrive.

If you garden soil is saturated from recent rain, try to wait for a drier time. Keep in mind that bulbs can be planted any time before the ground freezes. I have brushed the first snowfall away and planted at that point.

Q: Can I prune my trees and shrubs now?

A: Although it is cold enough now that pruning shouldn’t stimulate new growth, late winter or  early spring, before new growth starts, is a better time for most pruning. When you make a cut in fall, you are leaving an open wound that won’t heal before winter arrives. You may see further branch die back by next spring.

By pruning just before the active growing time in spring, wounds will have a chance to start healing before the following winter sets in.

Q: I have quite a collection of ornamental perennial grasses. Do I cut them back now as I tidy up my garden?

A: Grasses are best left as is over the winter. Not only do they look attractive in the garden but the ones that produce a seed head provide winter food for small birds that stay year round in our area.

Grasses should be looked at in the spring. Once you see new growth begin, cut old dead stems just above the point of new leaves.

Some perennial grasses have foliage that lives through the winter. Evergreen Oats and Blue Fescue are two such varieties. In spring, I put on a pair of sturdy gloves and rake through the plant with widespread fingers to ‘comb’ out dead leaves.

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About Me

I began my journey in horticulture in 1982 after graduating from the Humber College Landscape Technician program. At that time, I lead a talented crew of landscapers, taught evening courses in horticulture and had my own landscape design and consulting business. Then I ventured into the garden centre world. I’m lucky enough to be leading the friendly and knowledgeable team at New North Greenhouses. 

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