Burrr. Feel that chill in the evening air? So does your garden. It's time to get it ready for winter. As erratic as the weather has become, it's best not to wait too long to protect your garden from early frost.
Clean and protect is the motto for winterizing. Yes, rake up those leaves, preferably using them for mulch on your perennials or putting them in a compost pile for use next year. To keep leaves from compacting and cutting off oxygen to the plants, shred them. Don't have a shredder? Pile the leaves several inches deep on your lawn and run the lawnmower through them a few times.
Protecting roses from the ravages of winter takes knowledge and thought. You have to know what type of rose you have, and what its particular needs are.
"Cold, storms and wet are all problems," says Janet Inada of Rogue Valley Roses in Talent.
Mulching is one way of protecting roses. The best mulch is decomposed leaves, but no black walnut or red cedar, which can be toxic to roses. Oak leaves are slow to decompose and so allow air circulation. Some people cover the whole plant with mulch and wrap it in burlap. Inada says this isn't usually necessary in our climate, but do mulch over the grafted buds on plants that have been grafted to a rootstock.
Climbing roses need their canes protected from wind damage. "If the canes are allowed to saw across each other it will allow diseases to enter the cane," Inada warns. Either cut back the cane or tie the canes together or to a fence, so they don't whip around in the wind. (This works for berries, also.)
"Most important," says Inada, "is thinking before you plant." Match the rose to the microclimate in your yard best suited for it. You should be able to get that information from the nursery or grower or the American Rose Society website.
A few inches of mulch around trees and shrubs will also help them get through the winter.
With the increased interest in container gardening, most people have pots sitting around their garden. Not all are designed to withstand frosts.
"Frost-resistant, glazed pots, generally from Vietnam, do not crack in winter cold," says Connie Skillman of Pot Luck Container Gardens in Ashland. "But clay that is not high-fired will crack if left outside. Transfer the plants to another pot of frost-safe clay or metal."
Skillman recommends putting plants in the largest container you have available, as the extra dirt in the pot will give extra protection from the cold. And she also suggests using the fabric used for row covers to wrap tender plants both in the ground and in containers. Known by several brand names and available at the Grange and some nurseries, the white porous fabric will raise the temperature of the plant about eight degrees while still allowing sunshine and rain to get through. For extra protection, double the fabric and tape it closed, so the plant is totally cocooned.
It is also time to bring in tender plants and citrus, like Meyer lemons. Christine Mackison, co-owner of Shooting Star Nursery in Central Point has a tip for dealing with these plants if you don't have a place to raise them inside. String miniature white Christmas lights on the plants. This generally will raise the ambient temperature of the plant enough to survive all but the most severe frosts. (But if there is a power outage, get them inside a garage or shed until daylight.) Winter lights come in handy for cold frames, too.
Are all the plants buttoned up in coats of mulch? Don't forget to keep them watered if we have a dry winter. It is now time to drain and roll up the hoses and put them inside. If you have a main shutoff for your yard faucets and water features; turn that off, drain the pipes and leave them open to prevent freezing. Follow your irrigation pipes and sprinkler system's directions to prepare for freezing temperatures.
Survey the garden for those ornaments that won't survive the winter well, either because of rain or cold. Don't forget to care for your hardworking tools. Drain the gas out of weed-eaters and lawnmowers. Lightly sand any rust off shovels and other metal tools, and wipe a coat of oil over them. Linseed oil can be used to refresh wooden handles.
Then there's nothing much to do except get out the catalogs and start planning next year's garden.