Winter Garden Tips
• Consider leaving in place the foliage of the perennials. The dried leaves and stems, in shades of brown, gray, and tawny, and the various textures create a subtle but beautiful winter garden, especially if you plant ornamental grasses with their long-lasting seed heads.
• Protect young evergreens and dwarf trees from winter damage before the first heavy snowfall. Circle them with a cylinder of snow fencing and fill in the space between the tree and the fence with straw or leaves. Or drive stakes into the ground at four corners around the plant and wrap burlap or heavy plastic around the stakes, securing it at the top, center, and bottom with twine.
• After a heavy snowfall, go out and gently shake the snow from evergreens. Work carefully because the frozen wood is brittle. Inspect small trees for broken limbs and remove what you can with a sharp saw.
• Spend winter days and evenings reading seed catalogs and books, planning your next garden. Make your list and check it at least twice, but don’t mail it right away. A pause of several days will give you a chance to change your mind. Also, a garden tends to increase in size in our imagination over the winter, and it’s all too easy to order too many seeds.
• If you burn hardwood in your fireplace, save the ashes to use in the spring; they make a fine fertilizer. When you sprinkle wood ashes around berries and fruit trees, the potash in them enhances the sweetness of the fruit.
• Work on all of the things there’s never time to do in the spring and summer. Build a cold frame or a potting bench. Set up a system for seed starting.
• Prune fruit trees anytime the weather isn’t too cold for you. Winter is also a good time to cut grapevines back heavily, pruning the darker, rusty-brown wood to encourage the growth of new wood; if you wait to do this job later in the season, the vines may lose sap through the cuts that you make.