Now is the time to prep your garden so you’ll be ready for spring
planting. Throughout the fall and winter the garden is exposed to
the elements such as wind and storms. This can leave behind quite a
mess. The weather will slowly begin to warm but plants are
still dormant. It’s the perfect time to clean up. If you wait too
long you might step on spring bulbs and plants that will soon be
popping out of the ground.
Clear away and compost the dead stalks of perennials. They
provided winter seeds for the birds and wildlife but now it’s
time to clear them away. (Some gardeners wait until early spring
to clear away plant debris because beneficial insects like to
over winter in the stalks.)
Late winter is a good time to prune some plants but all plants
are not pruned alike! Dead or dying limbs can be removed at any
time. Late winter is a good time to prune late spring flowering
trees like butterfly bush or spirea. Spring flowering trees and
shrubs like dogwood and azaleas should not be pruned until after
their flowers fade in the spring. Know your plant’s needs before
pruning. Get out the pitch fork and turn over your compost pile
unless it is covered in snow. The bottom has the best organic
Give your soil some care. You should add compost or dehydrated
manure a couple of weeks before planting. You want to give it
time to mix well with your soil to avoid burning the roots of the
Make a plan for the garden. Be certain you know your planting
zone. Learn about native plants and utilize them in your plan.
Clean out bird boxes to avoid disease and pests and to encourage
pollinators to the garden.
Prep your garden tools. Clean with soup and water and apply
mineral spirits on wood handles. Sharpen if needed.
Attend gardening workshops and seminars to learn more
about gardening and get inspired for the new gardening season!
The time you spend now will ensure healthy plants and shrubs.
You’ll be ready for spring and everything blooming.
Mother Nature is showing us that it's time to put the garden to
bed for the winter. The leaves are falling, the lawn has
turned green and the annuals are looking tired.
Take a look at your TURF. It will survive winter and come back
more vigorously in spring if you do a few things. The fall and
winter months are ideal times to make lime applications. The first
steps towards correcting an existing problem is to test your soil.
You can get a soil test at the front desk at Green Spring Gardens
or at www.ext.vt.edu.
It's a good idea to test your soil every three years. To get
additional information on lawn care check out the Virginia Tech
"Fall Lawn Care" publication. http://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/430/430-520/430-520-pdf.pdf
. It is also a good idea to aerate the lawn and to continue
watering until it turns brown.
If you have a VEGETABLE GARDEN pull up old vines and vegetable
plants. Insect pests that feed on these plants often lay their eggs
on the old plants. If they are not diseased, work the old plants
back into the garden soil. In addition to garden debris, you can
add other organic material into the soil. Well rotted manure,
compost, peat or leaves will work.
All ANNUAL FLOWERS should be pulled if diseased and put in the
trash. If disease free compost them or dig them into the garden.
WEEDS should be pulled wherever they are in the garden. Weeds that
are spread by seeds can produce thousands of seeds so get rid of
The days are shorter and the temperatures dropping causing the
deciduous TREE and SHRUBS to drop leaves and prepare for winter
dormancy. Limit fertilization in fall, since nitrogen stimulates
late season growth and delays dormancy. Continue to water
trees and shrubs to send them into winter with ample moisture.
For more information visit the Green Spring Gardens
Library or check out the publication list at Virginia Tech, http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/
The Virginia Native Plant Society suggests replacing English Ivy
(Hedera helix) with some of these alternatives:
EVERGREEN OR SEMI-EVERGREEN FOR SHADE
Creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera) mats together to make a
spectacular display of blue/violet in early spring and stays
low and green throughout the rest of the year.
Virginia ginger (Hexastylis virginica) is a beautiful evergreen
Foamflower (Tiarella codifolia) has frothy little spikes of white
flowers in May and the foliage lasts all year long.
EVERGREEN FOR SEMI-SHADE
Mouse-eared coreopsis (Coreopsis auriculata) with yellow blooms
attracts many butterflies and bees.
DECIDUOUS FOR SHADE
Violets (Viola Canadensis) disappear in winter, but they provide
nectar in early spring and are hosts to several butterfly larvae.
Ants will spread the seed around.
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is taller and less
dense than English ivy, but looks beautiful under trees. It will
grow up trees without harming them because it is deciduous. Bird
love the berries. It is aggressive, so be sure to put it in a place
that you don't mind it spreading.
Virginia knotweed (Tovara virginiaa/Persicaria virginiaa) will
completely fill a large space in a couple of years and looks very
nice in a "shaggy, woody way." In addition to the straight
peices there is a colorful cultivar with variegate leaves, tiny red
flowers and seedheads, called "Painter's Palette."
Cardinals and other birds love the seed or knotweed.
Heart-leafed aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium formerly Aster
cordifolius) is similar to white wood aster, but with pale blue
Zigzag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis) is very attractive to
pollinators in fall.
EVERGREEN OR SEMI-EVERGREEN TREES FOR SUN
American Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) – tough as
American Holly (Ilex opaca) 'Old Heavy Berry' is a very
hardy, vigorous, and fruitful cultivar
Austrian Black Pine (Pinus nigra)
Bull Bay or Southern Magnolia (Magnolia
Chinese Holly (Ilex cornuta) 'Burfordii' - Burford holly
is a large shrub or small tree
Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) – a native
Japanese Cryptomeria (Cryptomeria japonica) – dense
conifer tolerant of harsh, hot sites
Mexican Stone Pine (Pinus cembroides)
Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) red- or yellow-fruited
cultivars are available
EVERGREEN OR SEMI-EVERGREEN SHRUBS FOR SUN
China Rose (Rosa x odorata 'Mutabilis')
Chinese Holly (Ilex cornuta) – there are dwarf forms
Glossy Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora) – a butterfly magnet
with pink flowers all summer
Leatherleaf Mahonia (Mahonia bealei) – fruit eaten by
birds – may be considered invasive by some
Leatherleaf Viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophyllum) – may lose
leaves in severe winters
Nandina -Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica) – sterile
cultivars preferred – considered invasive
Oregon Grapeholly (Mahonia aquifolium) – bright yellow
flowers in early spring
Pyracantha/Firethorn (Pyracantha coccinea) – red or
orange berries in winter. Prefers poor soil.
Wintergreen Barberry (Berberis julianae) – reliably
evergreen but has thorns
VINES FOR SUN
American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens)
American Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) – potentially
Carolina jessamine (Carolina jessamine) – yellow
Clematis (Clematis sp.)
Climbing Hydrangea; several plants are known as climbing
hydrangeas (Hydrangea anomala – from China),
(Hydrangea petiolaris – Japan and Korea – perhaps
subspecies of anomala), (Pileostegia viburnoides)
Kiwi (Actinidia sp.) Actnidia arguta is hardy
but may be invasive
Native Coral Honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens –
hummingbirds feed on it
Native Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens)
Passion Flower (Passiflora sp.) – potentially invasive
HERBACEOUS PLANTS FOR SUN
Cosmos (Cosmos sp.)
Larkspur (Consolida sp.) – best if seed is planted in
Marigolds (Tagetes sp.)
Pansies (Viola sp) – not happy in hot weather
Petunias (Petunia sp.) and (Caleobrachoa sp.) –
smaller flowers than Petunia
Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa columbaria) – deer resistant,
Portulaca or Moss Rose (Portulaca grandiflora) –drought
tolerant – rarely eaten by deer – self-sows
Red Salvia/Scarlet Sage (Salvia splendens)
Sunflowers (Helianthus sp.)
Vinca (Cathyranthus hybrids) – drought tolerant and
totally deer-proof – will self-sow
Zinnia (Zinnia elegans) – drought tolerant and not eaten
by deer – may self-sow
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Clary Sage (Salvia schlerea) – spectacular flower spikes
to 4.5 feet high
Foxglove (Digitalis sp.)
Hollyhock (Alcea sp.)
Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus)
Bee Balm (Monarda sp.)
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) – this is an herbaceous
perennial – dies to the ground in Fall
Columbine (Columbine sp.) – short-lived perennials but
Coreopsis/Tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolate) – spreads by
stolons – many cultivars
Sage (Salvia sp.)
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) many cultivars available