Winter readiness: How to prepare your garden for the colder months


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The mild October has been very beneficial to backyard gardeners allowing another week or two to enjoy flowers and produce. However, cooler temperatures are on the way, and now is the time to start preparing your garden for winter.

When it comes to frost the temperature to watch for is 36 degrees. We have yet to hit that mark this year due to our mild month. On average since the year 2000, Fort Wayne’s first night at or below 36 degrees is typically October 10th, which passed by almost 2 weeks. When it comes to the first freeze at 32 or below we are also behind on that mark which since 2000 is October 17th.

Terri Theisen is an educator at Purdue Extension and says when it comes to the first frost you have to be aware of what your garden variety can handle.

“It’s knowing what your plants are, so some of those would be like our tomatoes or beans or peppers or cucumbers. For flowers and ornamentals, it’s begonias, geraniums, and petunias. So all of those plants aren’t able to handle those cold temperatures that we have coming up” said Theisen.

If you can move the plant or house plant indoors that is the best strategy, but if you can’t, you can take some steps to protect them.

“If we don’t want them to die just yet. That can be done by taking some dry sheets and laying them out on top of the plants, protecting them,” Theisen described, “Some people get creative and put buckets on top of them, to just kind of put a blanket on top, putting a covering on top so that they can stay a little bit warmer.”

Covering sensitive flowers and plants will protect them from frosty nights

It is also important to keep those plants watered but Mother Nature has taken care of that recently with the consistent rain.

While some may want to protect their plants, others are okay with letting things die off naturally after their big harvest. Either way now is also a good time to start setting your garden up for a successful 2022 growing season once spring rolls around.

“There is so much that gardeners can do one of the first things that I recommend is making sure to take out anything that has lots of diseases. Anything that just wasn’t doing so well get it out of there so it doesn’t affect next year, and the soil and stay in the soil to inoculate for next year,” explained Theisen, “We always recommend soil testing. If you haven’t done a soil test in three to five years, get your soil tested and make some of those amendments. So adding sulfurs, adding different compost are really great ways to kind of let it marinate throughout the winter and get those nutrients in there nice and easy.”

Theisen adds that the recent rains have also been beneficial to trees and shrubs, as they need a nice amount of water in the soil so that they can overwinter and don’t go into the winter in a drought which can stress them.

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