First Frost Garden Care
As first frost approaches, it's time to put your gardens to bed. Before autumn's cold nights set in, perennials, vegetables, container gardens, and lawns should be prepared and protected for the wintry weather to come. From planter prep to leaf removal, our garden care expert Kerry Ann M. shares her first frost essentials, below.
Vegetable Garden Care: If you're growing sweet potatoes, it's time to harvest. Carrots, parsnips, leeks, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower can remain in the garden a bit longer. All can tolerate a fair amount of frost -- in fact, carrots and parsnips become sweeter when exposed to cold weather.
Perennial Garden Care: If you have dahlias or other tender, summer-flowering bulbs in the ground, it's time to lift them and prepare them for storage before the first hard freeze. (More here on winter bulb care.) Sturdy, structural perennials or those that have unique seed pods and flower heads -- like grasses, echinacea, and rudbeckia -- can be left standing in the garden for interest all winter long. Other perennials that could become soft or messy should be cut back and composted away from the garden. Tender perennials should receive extra mulch to protect their crowns from the cold; cut evergreen boughs perform this job especially well.
Container Care: Remove soil and water from any pots that could crack; remember that when moisture freezes it expands, so even plastic can break. Turn the empty pots upside down and store them on pot feet or boards so they won't freeze to the ground. If you've planted any perennials in frost-proof pots, store the entire planting against the north side of a building or structure, and mulch it in with straw bales or shredded leaves.
Lawn Care: To avoid dead spots in spring, remove any whole leaves from your lawn with a sturdy rake or mulch them with a lawnmower.