Preparing Your Garden for the Winter

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Photo by photos_by_ginny from Pexels

by Cassie Steele, Freelance Writer

As the days start getting colder, many Maine residents are thinking about winterizing their home in preparation of the coming months. Winterizing not only keeps your home safe from damage, but can also save you a countless amount of time, money, and frustration when it comes to repairs.

While many Maine families are diligent about preparing their homes for winter, with a focus on providing warmth indoors, unfortunately not everybody takes as much care with their garden. Maine spans USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 6, which means that temperatures can reach extremes as low as -35℉ in some areas. If you’re looking forward to colorful flowers and delicious veggies in the springtime, it’s crucial that you take steps now to protect your plants over the winter.

Weed and Prune

Before the first snow starts to fall, it’s a good idea to head outside and tidy up your garden. Remove dead branches, invasive weeds and other debris with a pair of quality garden shears. This removes dead materials that bugs and rodents can use to nest in, helping you to avoid an onslaught of pests come springtime. It also means that your garden will be ready to go in the spring, allowing you to jump in and start planting new sprouts immediately.

Dig Up Delicate Plants

Some plants can survive the winter and pop back up in the springtime if given a simple covering during cold months. Others, though, are more susceptible to frost and snow. You should dig up both bulbs and rooted plants that may die if exposed to cold and transfer them to pots that can be stored indoors. When it starts to warm up again, simply transfer these plants back outside and watch them thrive.

Protect Your Trees

Many gardeners assume that their trees will be fine on their own come winter. After all, most trees have managed to survive plenty of winters before. While trees do tend to be hardier than other garden plants when faced with foul weather, they’re not completely impervious. Young trees and saplings are particularly susceptible, as they have thin bark that tends to crack from fluctuating temperatures. You can help to prevent this by wrapping tree tape or spiral protectors around the based of the trunk.

Even evergreen trees can suffer from damage during harsh winter months. Low soil moisture, freezing temperatures, and rough winds can all cause damage to both the interior and exterior of the plant, including the dreaded winter burn. To prevent this from happening, make sure that evergreens are well hydrated throughout the fall months. You can also create windbreaks by wrapping stakes in the ground with burlap or landscaping fabric to form a makeshift barricade.

Though most of us weatherize our home come wintertime, not everybody considers their garden. Spending a bit of time and energy preparing your garden for the winter can help to ensure that all of your hard work during the year doesn’t go to waste. You’ll keep your plants alive and healthy so that your garden can spring back to life when the weather warms up.

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Lemon Queen Sunflowers - Helianthus annuus

Annual

 

Short Description

Beautiful butter yellow flowers blossom mid-summer to frost! Typically grow to more than 5 ft. tall. Expect 70 days to flower.

Growing Guidelines

  1. Around the last frost date, sow seeds directly into the soil.
  2. Plant seeds 1" deep and 6" apart.
  3. Water well after planting.
  4. Apply a 3"-4" layer of mulch to conserve water and keep down weeds.
  5. Thin seedlings to 1 ft. apart to allow 2 to 3 ft. between plants.

Care and Feeding
Plant in full sun. Sunflowers are drought-resistant, but they'll grow better if you water regularly from the time the flowers begin to develop until they're mature. Thriving in most soils, these flowers will become massive if given ample fertility, space and water. Harvest blossoms for continued flowering.

Need more information or gardening supplies? Contact your local independent garden center.

Calendula Mix-Calendula officinalis

 

Short Description

Fruition has hand-selected this variety to have a brilliant diversity of colors with dozens of gorgeous, petals on each blossom.

Growing Guidelines

Direct sow (recommended)

  1. After the last frost, sow directly outside in the garden.
  2. Plant seed 24 to 36 inches apart in all directions.

Transplant method

  1. A cool-season plant, calendula can be started indoors in flats, under grow lights 6-8 weeks before the last frost for early season flowering.
  2. Seeds germinate in 5-15 days.

Care and Feeding
Plant in full sun to partial shade. Easy to grow and remarkably drought tolerant, calendula also thrives in containers and will readily naturalize when let go to seed.

Transplanting Tips

  1. Purchase a good seed starting soil like Espoma Organic seed starting mix or Coast of Maine.
  2. Use a small greenhouse tray(tray with a clear plastic dome) to germinate your seeds.
  3. When it's time to transplant into the garden, use a fertilizer like Espoma Flower-tone or Espoma Plant-tone.

Need more information or gardening supplies? Contact your local independent garden center.

Purple Queen Anne's Lace

"Dara" Daucus carota

 

Short Description

Gorgeously laced 3-5" umbels in shades of burgundy, lilac, mauve & white on long, strong stems perfect for cutting, adored by pollinators. Related to our native carrot, Queen Anne's Lace.

Growing Guidelines

Direct sow (recommended)

  1. In early spring, after late frost, sow seeds directly in soil.
  2. Plant 1 seed 1/8" deep and 2" apart.
  3. Expect 2 weeks for germination.
  4. When seedlings are 2-3" tall, thin to 1 plant every 9-12".
  5. Support may be needed if fertility is high or if your garden is windy.

Transplant method

  1. Chill seed at 40 F 1-2 weeks prior to sowing 1/8" deep, 2 seeds per cell 4-5 weeks before planting out.
  2. Expect germination in 1-2 weeks.
  3. When first leaves appear, transplant into larger containers.
  4. Harden off & transplant with 9-12" between plants after last frost.

Care and Feeding
Plant in full sun. Expect 65-75 days to maturity. Dara has an exceptionally long vase life; harvest when 80% of an umbel's flowers are open & no pollen has shed. Enjoy 7-15 heads per plant on swaying 35-50" stalks.

Transplanting Tips

  1. Purchase a good seed starting soil like Espoma Organic seed starting mix or Coast of Maine.
  2. Use a small greenhouse tray(tray with a clear plastic dome) to germinate your seeds.
  3. When it's time to transplant into the garden, use a fertilizer like Espoma Flower-tone or Espoma Plant-tone.
Need more information or gardening supplies? Contact your local independent garden center.

Marigolds

Annual

Care and Feeding

Transplant Only: Sow 4 weeks before last frost shallowly, 2 seeds per cell and thin to 1, keeping soil surface moist until emergence. Transplant to larger containers when true leaves appear. Harden off and transplant outside when the danger of frost has passed with 12" between plants. Deadhead for blossoms all season.

  • Sowing Date: Indoors before last frost
  • Seed Depth: 1/4 inch
  • Days to Germination: 4-7 days at 75-80°F
  • Days to Maturity: 60
  • Plant spacing after thinning: 12 inches
  • Height: 12 inches

Need more information or gardening supplies? Contact your local independent garden center.

Organic Mexican Sunflower (Torch Tithonia)

Annual

Care and Feeding
Direct Seed (recommended): After final frost, sow every 8" and thin to one every ~2'. Light required to germ, so barely cover seed. Full sun is best. Any (even poor) soil is suitable. Harvest flowers when 90% open for bouquets.

Transplant: Sow indoors 2-3 weeks before last frost, transplanting after frost with spacing below.
 
  • Sowing Date: After frost; Late May- early June
  • Seed Depth: 1/2 inch
  • Days to Germination: 7-14 days
  • Days to Maturity: 85
  • Plant spacing after thinning: 2 feet
  • Height: 5-7 feet

Need more information or gardening supplies? Contact your local independent garden center.

Cosmos

Annual

Care and Feeding

Direct Seed (recommended): After last frost, shallowly sow 4 seeds/foot & thin to 1/foot when first true leaves appear. Wider spacing = thicker stronger stems.

Bouquets: harvest when petals first open. Deadhead for blooms all season.

Transplant: Shallowly sow 4 weeks before transplanting after last frost at below spacing. Transplant your cosmos for earlier blooms and more full-size plants per pack; direct sow for blooms throughout the season and simplicity of sowing.

  • Sowing Date: After frost, late May to early June 
  • Seed Depth: 1/4 inch
  • Days to Germination: 7-10
  • Days to Maturity: 65-70
  • Plant spacing after thinning: 18-24 inches
  • Height: 3-4 feet

Need more information or gardening supplies? Contact your local independent garden center.