Clean up and cut back

Last Updated: 
December 9, 2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. – It's time, before cold weather sets in, to clean your yard and garden to protect them from winter weather. The following tasks, best done in October and November, are recommended by Ross Penhallegon, horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service.

"Mulch your empty garden beds with fallen leaves and grass cuttings if they don't have a cover crop on them yet," Penhallegon said. "Mulch will help prevent erosion and rainwater compaction. Mulching also adds organic matter to the soil and encourages earthworm activity. Plus it will keep weed germination down."

Control the weeds that have recently germinated from early fall rains. It is a much easier job now than in the spring. A hoe or hand pulling will do it. "This is not a good time of year to use herbicides," he said. "The damp soil makes it easy to hoe or pull weeds, big or little.”

Penhallegon also advises homeowners to apply a small amount of slow-release nitrogen fertilizer to lawns, if needed.

“Use just enough to keep the lawn green, but not enough to cause need for additional mowing,” he said. “Don't use quick-release fertilizer, as it will just leach away. Don’t apply fertilizer to trees, flowers or shrubs this time of year, as it may reduce their cold tolerance."

Other pre-winter advice:


• Cut back late-flowering perennials such as asters and chrysanthemums to a few inches. Peonies can be cut all the way to the ground. Mulch the crowns with compost to protect them from hard freezes.

• Prune late-summer and fall-flowering shrubs like clethra and hydrangea several weeks before icy winter weather or hold off until mid-February to do your pruning. Trim back roses to knee height so winter winds won’t cause damage.

• Keep your perennial gardens free of wind-blown plant refuse. Continue to rake your lawn, as more leaves fly, and add them to your compost pile.

• Pull up spent summer annuals such as snapdragons, marigolds, zinnias, cosmos and nasturtiums that have died back.

• Dig and store summer flowering bulbs and tubers (both west and east of the Cascades), including dahlias, calla lilies, canna lilies, gladiolus and tuberoses because of potential very cold winter weather that freezes the ground. Store them in a dark, dry and cool (above freezing) place, safe from rodents.

Author: Judy Scott
Source: Ross Penhallegon