By Cindy Cloninger
Like many of you, Autumn is one of my favorite times of year. I love the cool beautiful mornings and the absolutely perfect days. Living in the Wasatch mountains we are treated to colorful sunsets to awe and inspire. Autumn is the time of year where we gather with all those we love to enjoy good company, good food, and relish in all the joy that life brings.
But before you head indoors and get that turkey ready for the 50 people you care about most, take these easy steps and set your garden up for success in my next favorite season, spring.
There are 3 areas of focus you should keep in mind when preparing your garden for winter. First, cut back and clean up. Second, preparing and protecting against the harsh freezing winter temperatures. And the third is to think ahead to planning for early next spring.
Splitting the tasks in half, you can easily accomplish these steps in 2 days: a morning & afternoon each. So let’s get started
1 - Cutting back plants and trees & cleaning up your garden
Perennials and ornamental grasses should be cut back to the ground. Waiting until spring means new shoots will already be growing. Take advantage of these last few beautiful days to divide any perennials that have gotten too big. Early blooming daisies, phlox, poppies, and cora bells, as well as hostas and peonies will benefit from being thinned out.
This is the perfect time to start a compost pile if you don’t have one already. Add to it all of the spent plants in your vegetable garden and clippings from shrubs and leaves that have fallen.
Shrubs and Trees
Fall is a good time to prune trees and shrubs as foliage has already dropped. Pruning may be done in the fall or the spring. However, a word of caution, some studies show heavy November pruning negatively affects the trees ability to become winter hardy. So it may be best to lightly prune, fruit trees especially, and wait until early spring for more heavy pruning.
A quick pruning guide is to maintain a natural shape with shrubs, avoiding boxy or round shapes (unless that is what you are wanting). For fruit trees, you want to trim any down facing branches and create and open bowl shape, so that the branches have room and can support the weight of a plentiful harvest. For all other trees, remove any crossing, damaged, or dead branches, cutting back any overly long branches and shape in a more vertical direction.
2- Protecting your garden plants and soil against the freezing winter
You might think that worrying about watering has past. But Utah is one of the driest states in the nation, receiving an annual rainfall of just 13 inches. Because it can be most dry during the fall, your evergreens will suffer without regular water until the ground freezes. Local landscape architect, Laurie Van Zandt has the solution.
If the root ball is dry going into winter, evergreen trees and shrubs will struggle. To avoid this, after irrigation has been turned off, deep water pines, spruce, and fir every two weeks or so until the ground has frozen unless there is significant rainfall.
Newly planted trees and shrubs are especially vulnerable. It is a good idea to incorporate some compost, dry leaves, and wool pellets into your soil. Who wouldn’t want a nice covering of wool to cozy up to in the cold, freezing nights? While holding necessary water and creating space for roots, wool pellets give a slow release fertilizer that will help your plants in the spring. Say goodbye to slugs and snails with these microscopic razor barbed wool fibers. Adding a 2 inch layer of compost (we recommend Terra Zest) at season's end creates an additional barrier to weeds while contributing to the overall softening of your soil.
I probably don’t have to tell you how cold it gets during the long winter months. So bring in potted plants that will have the additional struggle to stay warm. If you have planted warmer climate perennial bulbs and tubers, now is the time to dig those up, cover them in sawdust or wood chips (making sure they are pest free) and store them in the garage. Wrap sensitive plants in burlap for extra protection.
Additionally, you can add wood chips, mulch, and potting soil to pots and at the base of plants. Spreading wood & bark mulches are inexpensive, help temperature, and look good. Over time, mulches made from organic materials break down and increase your soil's structure and fertility. We suggest adding a 2-3 inch layer thinning it out around the base of trees.
With inconsistent snowfall and temperatures ranges during winter, snow will pile up and then melt, successively. This adds to the deterioration of the soil and can leave roots exposed. This is known as ‘frost heaving’. Regularly check on and add evergreen boughs, pine needles, and pest free straw as covering for roots. This will ensure consistently cold soil temperatures even during a winter thaw.
As you're enjoying a holiday feast with loved ones indoors, your garden may be the object of feasting for hungry animals through the winter months. Deer, elk, moose, rabbits, and voles are common winter month munchers. Wrap trees and shrubs in hardware cloth, wrapping around, but not touching the trunk. The ideal height should be at least 4 feet and several inches into the ground to cover larger and ground animals.
3- Planning for Spring
During fall and winter, our thoughts turn to preparing the indoors for cool temperatures and the richness of family gatherings and holidays. But, we should also be thinking of next spring. Wait...next spring?!?! Yep, you heard right, next spring. If we want the gorgeous garden and flowerbeds in spring and summer we need to prepare our soil for winter right now.
Before the ground freezes in autumn, plant those early flowering bulbs. Tulips, crocus’, allium, hyacinths, and the deer resistant daffodils are a beautiful sight flowering in garden beds in early spring. Pansies and violets may also be planted in late fall, they will overwinter and bloom as soon as the snow melts. With so many new varieties now available you can have a wonder of color come spring.
Add a layer of organic matter to your garden soil that will break down over the winter months and provide that micronutrient rich planting environment for your favorite vegetables. A 2 inch layer of organic matter mixed in will soften the soil adding to the overall soil health.
Lastly, in putting our garden to bed and preparing for spring, we have our garden tools and structures. Drain hoses and store flat. Sharpen any tools and disinfect tools and pots. With all the foliage gone, now is a good time to look at the landscape architecture and design of your space. Rock walls, water features, and other pieces can add dimension and shape your entire garden. Reflect on the consistency of blooms and growth throughout the growing season and plan to fill in the holes and gaps.
Keep watching for our upcoming series and perfect planning guide for your flower beds and vegetable garden.
Now that you’ve soaked up those precious rays of Vitamin D, your garden is looking great, and even better it is ready for winter. Go enjoy evenings that are filled with crisp, cool air, and football games. Soak up skies that are awe inspiring with sunsets in oranges, reds, and purples. And treasure watching the landscape change from autumn hues to winter whites with your loved ones and a cup of cocoa.
Virtual Assistant, blog manager, email & social media marketing assistant, web development. I enjoy hiking, fresh fruits & veggies, planting flowers, cooking great meals. But I love being a wife and mother the most. When I'm not doing all of those, I love to read and try new things. No matter the forecast, live like it's spring.
You’ve weeded, planted your annuals and bulbs, trimmed and pruned your roses, and laid a layer of mulch only to see it fade gray to nearly white in the first season. Why is it that some mulches can fade so fast? And is there a way to ensure you are purchasing mulch that will last longer than the first few months after purchase?
Benefits of Mulch
Spreading mulch over your garden soil is the best way to save time and energy in your yard. Mulch helps regulate soil temperature in addition to helping the soil hold moisture so you don't have to water as often. It also suppresses weeds. And over time, mulches made from organic materials break down and increase your soil's structure and fertility.
Our premium colored mulch is an environmentally safe product that conserves water and suppresses weeds all while protecting your plants from extreme temperatures.
How Mulch is Made?
Colored mulch is made through a multi-step, technical process.
Step 1: Recycled and wood waste are passed through grinders at a processing facility, creating smaller wood fibers, or bare mulch. Most of the wood at Wild Valley Farms has been recycled three or four times before we recycle it into beautiful colored mulch.
Wood is placed in the kiln for drying. The timber of living trees and freshly felled logs contains a large amount of water.
A wood drying kiln is an enclosed space where air speed, temperature and humidity are controlled. The benefit of kiln drying the timber is that it is dried in a controlled environment, has rigorous testing, and is extremely quick giving a higher quality end product. Kiln drying offers several benefits with respect to preventing lumber degrade ensuring long lasting and slow decomposition. It’s lighter texture and weight helps prevent soil compaction. Moreover, kiln dried lumber is stronger (over 2x) and stiffer (nearly 2x) than green lumber so it will stand up to weather exposure. Bugs and insects are also killed during the drying process making for a pest and pathogen free product.
The mulch enters a coloring system, whereby ultra-concentrated, environmentally safe colorant is mixed with water and applied to the wood fibers
The colorant completely encapsulates the wood, ensuring maximum adherence and UV protection
Natural Organic woods will fade quickly. Weather extremes and sunlight exposure play a part in the discoloration.
Starting with the cleanest and the finest quality wood product ensures the best outcome. Wild Valley Farms premium colored mulch is produced using the cleanest and the finest quality wood chips available. By combining kiln and air dried hardwood and softwood lumbers, and using only the highest quality colorants, we are able to produce a consistent, long lasting, weed and bug free product that is safe for use around your home and garden as well as children and pets.
Types and Colors of Wood Mulch
There are several options available in type and colors of mulch on the market. Most are tailored to give homeowners and business’ the flexibility to tailor the landscaping to individual preference. There is much debate and opinion that varies wildly regarding such.
Wood mulch is most often categorized by type of wood, size of chips, and coloring.
Common hardwoods and barks used are: Aspen, pine, cedar, cypress, and fur.
Chips & Nuggets
How Much to Use & When to Apply
Wood & bark mulches are inexpensive, help soil moisture and temperature and look good. They break down over time adding more organic matter to your soil improving the soil structure overall. Mulch needs to be reapplied yearly to maintain the optimal depth of 2 to 3 inches. Keep in mind that this depth needs to be reduced around the base of trees and must not cover the root base to prevent rot. It is best to add a layer of mulch in the fall to protect plants in the harsh winter and spruce up look of lawn in fading summer. Spread mulch in early spring to prevent weed growth and enrich the look of your landscape.
Wild Valley Farms premium colored mulch is produced using the cleanest and the finest quality wood chips available. By combining kiln and air dried hardwood and softwood lumbers, and using only the highest quality colorants, we are able to produce a consistent, long lasting, weed and bug free product that is safe for use around your home and garden as well as children and pets. Wild Valley Farms Mulches will last longer saving you time and money while maintaining the look you want.
The terms ‘mulch’ and compost’ are often used interchangeably and there is some confusion about what each is and the differences between the two. Many are confused about when and where to use them. In this article we’ll cover these questions and give you a better understanding about when, where, and how to use compost and mulch in your garden and flowerbeds.
What is Mulch?
Mulch can be any matter, organic or inorganic, that you put down on top of your soil. Materials used for mulch include everything from crushed rock and plastic sheeting to wood chips, discarded newspapers, pine straw, grass clippings, leaves, and straw.
Uses & Benefits of Mulch
Cautions for Mulch
Most Mulch is made from ground up wood. It is important to note that green waste Mulch can introduce pathogens or disease. Green waste mulch or mulch made from chipped up trees should also be composted. Sometimes people will take chipped green wood from a tree taken down in their yard and use the chips as mulch this practice many times introduces pathogens to new trees or other plants.
At Wild Valley Farms, our products are kiln dried so the color last longer and no pathogens. Take a look a our mulch here.
What is Compost?
Uses & Benefits of Compost
Adding compost improves soil structure. Compost is considered a soil conditioner, rather than a fertilizer, but more importantly, it can retain and make existing nutrients more readily available to plants.
Our premium organic and all natural Terra Zest is a special blend of manure, sawdust, and hydroscopic fiber (wool). We combine these products carefully to ensure your plants, lawn, trees or garden vegetables can get the full nutritional value needed for root development. Our premium Terra Zest will help your soil retain moisture and works as a slow release fertilizer that lasts all year long, unlike chemical fertilizers that only last for a few weeks, and our Terra Zest won’t burn your lawn or plants. It is safe for use around children or pets immediately after use.
It is screened to remove any debris, then carefully tested to make a uniform product for you and your customers.
Compost can be blended in with existing soil prior to planting, added to containers and spread on top.
Cautions for Compost
Manures that aren't composted usually are high in salts which can burn your plants, manures can also introduce weeds into your gardens. Dried manure is not compost!
Manures with some bedding(sawdust or straw) material but that is not turned or doesn't have the right moisture will be full of pathogens(diseases) that can harm or kill plants.
Green waste mulch or mulch made from chipped up trees should also be composted. Sometimes people will take chipped green wood from a tree taken down in their yard and use the chips as mulch this practice many times introduces pathogens to new trees or other plants.
Landfill compost can be really cheap and it is usually composted well, however landfill compost can be really dangerous to add to your garden or yard. Because there is no control of what is in the feed stock materials. If someone takes their grass clipping from their yard and have used "Weed and Feed" in the last two year that broadleaf killer will still be there and can kill your garden plants. Landfill compost many times will have heavy metals and broadleaf killer residue which is why nurseries will not sell landfill compost.
Learn more about compost in our article Are There Differences in Compost and What are They?