The end of September is the time to make plans to protect your plants for the winter. This means having a plan for storing tender bulbs such as cannas, dahlias and gladiolas or covering your vegetables with protection to insure harvest all winter.
The end of September is not the time of year to fertilize roses or prune shrubs. Pruning and feeding stimulates growth and you want your plants to slip into winter dormancy. The exception is feeding the lawn. Fall is the time to use a slow release lawn food.
Q. What is the method you once wrote about for letting your dahlia tubers stay in the ground all winter? I no longer want to dig and store my dahlias. — T., Puyallup
A. Gambling gardeners don’t have dig up dahlias in the fall if you don’t mind the possibility of losing some tubers in the event of a deep freeze. It is the constant winter rains that rot dahlias in Western Washington rather than freezing weather. Just cut back your dahlia plants to the ground when the foliage turns yellow and cover the area with waterproof fabric, plastic or even fronds of sword ferns to keep out the winter rain. Remove the covering in May once the soil warms and you’ll see new shoots from your old dahlias emerge by June.
Q. I would like to protect my salad greens this winter, but I have a large area for vegetables and need to find a place that sells hoops and winter plant fabric to keep off the frost. I have a large garden so need a good supply. Do you know who sells winter gardening supplies? — C.H., Yelm
A. The go-to site for crop cover arch supports is charleysgreenhouse.com. Charley’s Greenhouse company has a flagship store in Mount Vernon, Wash., but because they ship greenhouse kits and supplies all over the country they are known nationally as the place for gardeners who never want summer to end.
This is where you can find professional grade crop covers — called “Frost ProTek” — that are breathable and lightweight and protect from cold, birds, deer and other pests. Double drawstrings and cord locks make this product easy to secure and install. The most practical part of growing with winter row covers is you can easily fold them up for summer storage and reuse the fabric again, or just leave the hoops and covers in place all year long. Warning — once you experience the benefits of gardening all winter you might just order a greenhouse.
Q. I invested in some nice looking terra cotta containers. Every winter I notice more and more damage to the pots so that I now see the design chipping away. How do I stop the winter damage? These pots are too heavy to drag to a protected location out of the weather. — S., Kent
A. If you invest in nice clay pots, then invest in a water resistant coating to paint onto the surface of the pots. There are several brands available that will seal out the moisture that can cause cracking, pitting and the destruction of the terra cotta. In Europe, the large urns and pots on grand estates are sometimes wrapped in plastic and straw for the duration of the winter months to protect them from freezing.