Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Western Mountains and High Plains

December, 2004
Regional Report

Clean Out Gutters and Eaves

Clean eaves and troughs, and remove leaves, branches, and other debris from gutters and downspouts. This will prevent ice damage to ornamental shrubs and perennial flowers that reside beneath. Cleaning also will reduce the formation of ice dams that can back up water underneath the roofing material.

Store Root Crops in the Ground

You can harvest sweeter carrots if you winter them directly in the garden. Use cinder blocks on either side of the carrot row, then top with a piece of plywood cut to fit. When you need to harvest carrots, tip the plywood to slide off any snow, and dig some of the sweet morsels. This technique also will work with parsnips, rutabagas, and turnips.

Mow High Before Winter

Avoid the antiquated "scalping procedure" of mowing the lawn too short in late fall because it makes cool-season grasses more susceptible to drought injury and wind burn. Maintain a mowing height of 2 to 2-1/2 inches so you don't scalp the crowns. This will help to reduce excessive moisture loss, shade the soil, and insulate the grass from temperature fluctuations.

Protect Tender Shrubs

Protect borderline hardy plants, such as rhododendrons and azaleas, from extreme temperature fluctuations and dry, winter winds. Place wire cages, snow fencing, or other protective screening around the bushes. Once in place, fill with a loose organic material, such as cedar shavings or clean straw. Then top with burlap to keep the material in place.

Winter Mulching

Early winter is the time to apply mulch around perennial flowers and shrubs for additional winter protection. This is done to prevent the alternate freezing and thawing that can occur with the region's fluctuating winter temperatures. It is important to wait until the ground is frozen before spreading the mulch. Use organic materials, such as pine needles, coarse compost, shredded cedar shavings, or aspen mulch.


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