By Richard Jauron
Iowa State University
Fall is a busy time of year. Our house and cars need to be prepared for the upcoming winter season. It’s also time to get our garden and landscape plants ready for winter. The following are a few garden chores that should be completed before old man winter arrives.
Modern, bush-type roses (hybrid teas, floribundas and grandifloras) require protection during the winter months. Iowa’s low winter temperatures can severely injure and sometimes kill unprotected roses.
Hilling or mounding soil over the base of each plant is an excellent way to protect bush-type roses. Begin by removing fallen leaves and other debris from around each plant. Removing diseased plant debris will help reduce disease problems next season. Then, loosely tie the canes together with twine to prevent the canes from being whipped by strong winds. Next, cover the bottom 10 to 12 inches of the rose canes with soil. Place additional material, such as straw or leaves, over the mound of soil. A small amount of soil placed over the straw or leaves should hold these materials in place.
Prepare modern roses for winter after plants have been hardened by several nights of temperatures in the low to mid-20s. Normally, this is early November in northern Iowa, mid-November in central areas and late November in southern counties.
Strawberry plantings should be mulched in fall to prevent winter injury. Cold winter temperatures may kill the flower buds and damage the roots and crowns of unmulched plants. Unmulched plants also are susceptible to being heaved out of the ground by repeated freezing and thawing of the soil. Heaved plants may be seriously damaged or destroyed by cold, dry conditions in winter.
Allow the strawberry plants to harden or acclimate to cool fall temperatures before mulching the bed. Strawberry plantings should be mulched in early November in northern Iowa. Gardeners in central and southern Iowa should mulch their strawberries in mid-November and mid- to late November, respectively.
Excellent mulching materials include clean, weed-free straw and chopped cornstalks. Apply three to five inches of material. After settling, the depth of the mulch should be approximately two to four inches.
Finish harvesting root crops, such as beets, carrots and parsnips. Afterwards, clean up the garden. Remove and destroy the dead plant debris. Many plant pathogens overwinter in the garden on infected plant debris. Removing and destroying diseased plant debris reduces the severity of many diseases.
Removing plant debris also eliminates hiding places for some insects and helps reduce insect populations.
Trees and Shrubs
During the winter months, rabbits often browse on young trees and shrubs. Trees and shrubs that often are damaged by rabbits in winter include crabapple, apple, pear, redbud, honey locust, serviceberry, burning bush or winged euonymus, flowering quince, roses and raspberries. However, nearly all young trees and shrubs are susceptible to damage when food sources are scarce and rabbit populations are high.
Rabbits feed on the tissue between the bark and wood. Heavy browsing can girdle small trees. Girdled trees are effectively destroyed. Rabbits damage shrubs by chewing off small branches and girdling large stems.
The most effective way to prevent rabbit damage to trees and shrubs in the home landscape is to place chicken wire fencing or hardware cloth around vulnerable plants. To adequately protect plants, the fencing material needs to be high enough that rabbits won’t be able to reach or climb over the fence after a heavy snow.
To prevent rabbits from crawling underneath the fence, bury the bottom two or three inches below ground or pin the bottom of the fence to the soil with u-shaped anchor pins.
After finishing those chores, it’s still not time to rest. There are leaves to rake, gutters to clean, garden hoses to drain and store, tools to clean, annual containers to empty ...