October is garden lockdown, the time to defend against the onslaught of winter. How you prepare depends on what kind of gardener you are, says Kristin Schleiter, senior curator at the New York Botanical Garden.
THE KUMBAYA GARDENER “There are folks who believe strongly in leaving the garden up all winter because you’re feeding and providing shelter for other creatures and birds,” says Schleiter, who agrees that cutting plants back is optional— especially if you’re dealing with a truly perennial garden. The important thing is to be ready, come February or March, to cut everything back before the sap rises.
THE NEAT GARDENER Neatniks will want to cut everything back before the winter sets in. This also goes for snowbirds who winter in Florida and don’t want to miss the window after the thaw.
ONE MUST-DO Every gardener should add a layer of compost or a layer of mulch. Schleiter recommends waiting until the first frost before adding an inch or two. “You’re letting the ground freeze and trying to keep it frozen, to avoid the freeze-and-thaw cycle that pushes the plants out of the ground.”
NATURE’S SHIELD As for snow, Schleiter says: Bring it on. It is the best barrier against the winter cold. “We have our most damage when there is no snow cover; and when you get to the teens without snow, that’s when bad things start to happen.”