Garden Expert: Get Your Garden Ready for Winter

Each day we lose a little more sunlight which means our growing season is slowly coming to a close. With a bountiful harvest and beautiful blooms this summer it is time to get our garden beds ready for the cold weather approaching. To do this we got in touch with Dirk at Florabunda Seeds who is an expert in gardening. Dirk has some knowledgeable tips for putting your garden to bed for the winter. Before we get to his advice, let’s learn a little more about Dirk!

How long have you been gardening for?
Dirk: I am 70 years young now and have been involved in gardening since I was a child. My dad and grandfather were both farmers in Holland and both in the seed business. Both my grandfather and dad’s names were Dirk so now I am the third generation of Dirks in the seed business. At one point in time I had 17,000 sq. ft. of greenhouses and grew perennials and box plants. We also grew Cabbage, Broccoli and Cauliflower to ship out.

What is the biggest challenge when getting your garden ready for winter?
Dirk: My biggest challenge about getting ready for winter is to believe that it is really coming.

What is your favourite thing about gardening?
Dirk: Gardening is a way to be one with nature. There is nothing more fascinating than to plant a seed, watch it grow and see the beauty of the flower. It becomes more fascinating when you actually save a seed from the fruit or flower and watch it grow the next year.

Dirk’s Best Practices for Getting your Garden Ready for Winter

  • Give your garden a final weed. Make sure that you clean out any debris.
  • If you have flowers that are still blooming when putting your garden to bed, pick them, bring them in the house and enjoy them even if it is only for a few days. That is better than losing them to an overnight frost.
  • Seed self-seeding annuals in areas where you would like to see them bloom next year. Annuals like poppies, larkspur, cleome, cosmos, woodland and jasmine tobacco, and blue woodruff over winter well and will give you a head start for next spring.
  • Water your gardens well until freeze up.
  • Autumn is a good time to split perennials.
  • I like to trim down shrubs in the fall after they go dormant. Doing this earlier promotes new tender growth that will freeze off in the winter.
  • Make sure that you plant your spring bulbs. Being Dutch, I make sure that we have hundreds of bulbs that will bloom from early spring to early summer.
  • A layer of compost and/or mulch will protect your plants and will give them a boost in the spring.
  • Give the birds a break. Leave Coneflowers, Thithonia, Zinnias and Sunflowers provide much needed food for our birds.
  • Harvest and store or donate to food banks any remaining veggies. Some cool weather crops such as Brussel Sprouts taste much better after a touch of frost. I have dug kale out of the snow in winter and it tastes great!!
  • Remember, any of the work you do in the fall you won’t have to do in the spring. (ie: edging your gardens)
  • If you have any plants that have been growing in your garden that you want to bring in for the winter, make sure that you wash the dirt from the roots and transplant them in a soilless mix. You do not want to bring in any unwanted pests to infect your other house plants.
  • If you have planted any new trees or shrubs, make sure that they are well watered until freeze up. Protect the stems of the trees with burlap or a plastic tree guard to protect them from rodents and rabbits and direct sunlight which can cause a freeze-thaw cycle in the stems. It is also advisable to wrap (especially newly planted evergreens) in burlap to protect them from drying out in the winter.
  • Finally, add all green waste to your compost pile so you can use it for organic fertilizer next year. Happy gardening!

Dirk’s Best Practice for Soil in Container Plants

  • When I do container planting, every fall I take the soil from the containers and spread it on our gardens. I use soilless mix in our containers and in the spring start out with fresh so that there is no chance of spreading any pests, fungi or disease. Remember that there is only one spring every year and for the sake of a few dollars, don’t lose your chance to have beautiful containers. P.S. Make sure that you clean all your containers with water and a slosh of bleach before replanting. Rinse the pots well.

A special thanks to Dirk at Florabunda seeds for sending us some really great advice for our readers. Feel free to get in touch with Dirk at Florabunda seeds for more questions. If you want to see some tips for getting your garden fall ready for migratory birds be sure to check out this post!
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I'm Anna, the editor for the Toronto Home Shows blog. I'm an avid baker, runner, and love living in and decorating small spaces.

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