Garden care is a year-round activity, its rhythms dictated by seasonal conditions and local climates. April showers may bring spring flowers in temperate zones, late frosts and snow may continue at higher elevations while harvests of greens, peas and other vegetables may be well under way in the coastal south. Wherever you live, garden care is required throughout the year to a varying degree. The kind of attention and level of intensity depend on your growing zone and location. Whether you are mulching, fertilizing, planting or harvesting, there is work to be done all spring, summer, fall and winter. A little planning and consideration to the longevity and health of your plants and soil will give you an enviable yard and garden to be enjoyed year round.
Many perennials are better left standing over the winter than cutting them down. There are several reasons for this. In addition to many of the perennials having attractive foliage and/or seed heads, they offer food resources for birds. Many birds find the seeds of perennials particularly tasty. The stems of perennials also offer a place for some birds to hide during the winter.
With some marginally hardy perennials, leaving the stems up for the winter aids in overwintering. The foliage helps to insulate the crowns. Mums seem to benefit a great deal from this practice. Another reason to leave stems stand is that if the perennial is a late riser in the spring, the stems will help to mark the spot and prevent any accidental digging in the area that might harm the underground portions of the plant.
Some gardeners like to see standing perennials in the winter and others don’t. When perennials are cut down, do so after they have gone dormant. This is usually after the plants have experienced several hard frosts. Cut the plants down to within 2-3 inches of the crown. Cutting too close can result in winter injury on some perennials due to the fact that the buds for next year’s growth are right at the surface or higher and not below the soil line.