Grit Blogs > Nature and Gardening at the Edge

Getting ready for winter

Last week several rainy days changed the landscape and the outlook. The grass is greening up probably for the last time and the dust is gone. Often these rains bring cooler temperatures and signal the beginning of fall weather. Leaves are starting to fall and even with rain the gardens are slowing down. While we all look forward to fewer lawn and garden chores and lower water bills, there are still some things to be done before we get to winter.

In my area, many trees still show the signs of damage from heavy snows in last October when leaves where still on the trees last year. Usually there is more of a warning and time to prepare. Pruning trees is a good chore for the autumn and helps prevent that type of damage that can occur either in autumn or spring. Watering trees in the fall also helps them get through a potentially dry winter.

While many people plow gardens and fields, many others do not. A common pattern of winter weather here is for the mountains to get heavy snows and the plains to get winds from those storms but no snow. If this weather pattern occurs, a lot of topsoil can be lost. Thirty mile per hour winds are not uncommon and 100 mile per hour winds can happen as well.

Lawn and garden irrigation systems must be winterized to prevent damage. This involves using an air compressor to blow out the lines. The trick is to let your lawn go as long as possible so that it is in good shape for the winter but not to be out there with an air compressor on a frosty autumn afternoon when people are saying, "It is snowing in Cheyenne" or "It is snowing in the high country" and knowing that you must get it done now! It is possible to provide some protection for above ground components by covering with old blankets or other insulation but it feels good when you know that you are safe for the winter.

I have hoses and as well as in ground irrigation, so I drain all of the hoses and store them inside while getting the irrigation system winterized. If winter provides some warmer temperatures, I can pull out some for watering trees but generally they stay stored for the winter.

Cutting off the tops of perennials makes life a little simpler. When iris, phlox, day lilies and various other perennials die down, their dry dead foliage can provide wintering places for insects that can hit the ground running the following spring. Depending on the amount of moisture that falls, removing dead foliage the following spring can be between messy and impossible.

As long as you are planning for spring, fall cleanup can be a good time to locate and carefully remove wasp nests and other over wintering undesirable insects.

The mulched leaves from the yard go on the garden and hopefully stay there for the duration of the winter and enrich the next year’s garden. Okay, everything is clean and put away, let that storm move down from the north or the mountains, I am ready!