BILOWZ ASSOCIATES INC. is an award winning landscape architectural design firm with a proven philosophy: "Creating Design with Harmony & Balance."
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Friday, November 7, 2014

The November/December Checklist

Already chipping away at the holiday ‘must-do’ list? This annual pre-winter inspection cheat sheet for optimizing your garden’s well-being could come in handy. While some tasks may seem repetitive to the seasoned expert, there’s always one or two things that might sneak by or slip through the cracks. Before the cold weather moves in, take the challenge and complete the list. In New England, we often underestimate how quickly the ground can change from soft to hard as a brick.
- Run a soil analysis before the ground freezes. Understanding your soil condition is critical to why everything survives and thrives in the garden.
- Check all trees and shrubs for damage or diseased limbs. This is a good time to assess what should be pruned i.e., crossed branches or branches with poor structural integrity. For big trees, contact a reputable arborist regarding major pruning, guying, cabling or removal of potential hazard trees prior to winter storms.
- If you haven’t removed the fallen leaves, debris, and the dead tops of your perennials, finish this before snow flies. The same goes for your vegetable garden. Nothing should be left behind. Many diseases and insects overwinter in last year’s growth. If not removed, it can infect next season’s flush. Many diseases that hit a garden can be easily prevented if you keep your plant beds clean. We often leave some flower and seed heads like the Autumn Joy Sedum and the ornamental grasses for decorative winter interest. Otherwise, everything else gets the winter haircut – short, back and sides. Cleanliness is particularly critical with fruit bearing trees or vines.

- Any bulbs, peonies and recently planted perennials should get a layer of protective mulch for the winter. Wait until the ground freezes to avoid critter habitat. This can often be your most prevalent winter damage come spring. Critters raise havoc during a garden’s dormant months. And don’t forget to mound your Roses. Every garden should have a beautiful Rose or two.
- Clean up all your garden tools and winterize your equipment. Run all your lawn and garden power tools until the tanks are empty or condition the remaining fuel with fuel conditioner. Your local power tool dealer is your best resource for tips and recommendations for winterizing your handy garden gadgets. Hold off on the leaf blower. You may need a final send-off to those last fallen leaves. And last but not least, winterize your irrigation system.
- Low on mulch? Stockpile your winter supply. Check with your local nurseries for a bulk delivery but remember to keep it dry. Wet and frozen mulch does not work well. The other option - bagged mulch.
- Outdoor furniture may be secured and tucked away but did you empty, clean and pack your beautiful containers, urns and pots?  Rule of thumb - unless it can withstand crazy temperature fluctuations, it’s always best to protect these items from the winter elements.

Don’t let the season change from harvest and foliage to sleepy and dormant without completing your annual pre-winter inspection checklist. And for those that missed this week’s design blog, take a peek at the ‘November Design Challenge.’  As this anonymous quote reminds us, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”  Words to live by as we get close to wrapping up 2014.  

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© 2009 Ann St. Jean-Bilowz/Bilowz Associates Inc. (including all photographs, unless otherwise noted in Annie's Gardening Corner are the property of Bilowz Associates Inc. and shall not be reproduced in any manner nor are they to be assigned to any third party without the expressed written permission and consent of Bilowz Associates Inc.)