By SARA FERNANDEZ
It's that time of the year to put your garden to bed for the winter.
You can start your clean-up by removing weeds and frostbit annuals from your beds. For shrubs and trees, remove diseased leaves, but pruning branches is not recommended in the early fall as it may stimulate new growth; wait until the tree is in full dormancy (Dec.-Jan.)
Non-hardy bulbs, such as cannas, dahlias, and gladiolus, should be dug up, dried in the sun and stored in a cool, dry place like a garage, attic or basement.
If you don't already have a compost bin, you might want to consider starting one. You can throw your cuttings as well as dried leaves in your compost bin, which will break down into nutrient-rich compost for next year. Don't throw weeds or diseased cuttings into your compost because this will only cause problems down the road.
Our suburban landscape is trees and shrubs. Fall is a great time to look at your trees; the leaves are off and all is seen, including any dying or diseased wood that should be removed.
Wind can dehydrate evergreens, and one way to protect them is to hammer in three or four stakes around the plant and then take a few turns with a roll of burlap to make a windscreen.
It's not too pretty but very effective, especially if you stuff the top of the screen with straw or pine boughs. The new method is to spray your plants with an anti-desiccant like Wilt-Pruf, creating a waxy coating on the leaves and needles to seal in the moisture. These work well but need reapplying right as January and February are hitting, so remember to stock up for that second application.
If you need to bank areas around a rose or butterfly bush, use soil for that extra protection of the crown (or growing area) It does a better job of insulation from both cold and pests.
Many perennials should be cut back to about 6 to 8 inches above the ground. Some perennials actually look quite nice during the winter.
If you're not sure, you might want to leave them and see if you like the way they look in your garden over the winter.
Seed heads of some perennials are quite attractive and provide food for birds during the winter. Many perennials look tired and messy during the cold weather months, so you'll want to cut them back in the fall to keep your garden looking tidy.