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Seasonal Tips & Winter Protection
Seasonal Tips

In an effort to help you best take care of your landscape throughout the year, we've compiled a few key tasks to complete during each season. The following lists are not comprehensive, but reflect the pieces of advice we feel are most pertinent to the health and well-being of your landscape. Should you have any questions about seasonal maintenance, give us a call at (612) 861-7646.


Winter Protection (November - March)

Winter Protection

Minnesota's harsh climate is often responsible for severe damage to landscape plants. Winter sun, wind, and cold temperatures can bleach and desiccate evergreen foliage. It can also damage bark and injure or kill branches, flower buds, and roots. Snow and ice can break branches and topple entire trees. Salt used for deicing streets, sidewalks, and parking lots is harmful to landscape plantings as well.

However, it's not all bleak; landscape plants can be protected to minimize some of this injury.

Tips for Evergreens

When it's windy and sunny, evergreen foliage can lose moisture that it cannot replace with the ground frozen, resulting in browning.

  • Proper placement of evergreens at the time of planting is critical. Yews, hemlocks, and arborvitaes should not be planted on the south or southwest sides of buildings or in highly exposed (windy, sunny) places.

  • Water all season to ensure plants receive an average 1" moisture per week, right up until the ground freezes.

  • Avoid fertilizing shrubs past mid-August.

  • Prop cut pine boughs or Christmas tree greens against or over evergreens to protect them from wind and sun and to catch more snow for natural protection.

  • Prevent winter injury by constructing a barrier of burlap or similar material on the south, southwest, and windward side of evergreens. If a plant has exhibited injury on all sides, surround it with a barrier but leave the top open to allow for air and light penetration.

  • Minimize snow or ice damage on upright evergreens, such as arborvitae and junipers, by tying branches up with a soft twist tie or gently shaking to remove excessive snow.

  • To prevent salt damage, do not plant trees and shrubs in highly salted areas. Avoid areas where salty runoff collects or where salt spray is prevalent. Burlap barriers may project some plants from salt spray.

Tips for Trees

Newly planted and thin-barked trees are most susceptible to sun scald. On cold winter days, the sun can heat up bark to the point where the tissue thaws. When clouds, hills, or buildings block the sun, bark temperature drops rapidly. This kills the active tissue and frequently causes vertical splits in the bark.

  • Water all season to ensure plants receive an average 1" of moisture per week, right up until the ground freezes.

  • Wrap the trunk of susceptible trees in the fall with tree wrap or white plastic tubes to the lowest branch; remove in the spring after the last frost. This technique helps prevent sun scale and animal damage.

Tips for Shrubs

Shrubs can incur shoot dieback and bud death during the winter. Flower buds are more susceptible to injury on spring flowering shrubs. A good example of this is forsythia, where plant stems and leaf buds are hardy, but flower buds are very susceptible to cold-temperature injury.

  • Plants that are marginally hardy should be planted in sheltered locations.

  • Water all season to ensure plants receive an average 1" of moisture per week, right up until the ground freezes.

  • Avoid fertilizing shrubs past mid-August.

Tips for Perennials

Some perennial varieties need more protection than others and all will benefit from some protection.

  • Water all season to ensure plants receive an average 1" of moisture per week, right up until the ground freezes.

  • Avoid fertilizing perennials past mid-August.

  • cut back perennials not grown for fall interest after the first killing frost.

  • Mulch 4-6" deep early to mid-November (use straw, hay, or shredded leaves; avoid walnut leaves).

  • Avoid mulching Bearded Iris or Peonies.

  • Remove mulch in the spring once the frost is out of the ground.

Tips for Minimizing Animal Damage

Animals can do extensive damage by feeding on landscape plants during the winter.

  • Animals can be kept from gnawing on trees by encircling the trunk base with 1/4" gauge hardware cloth or screen wire. The wire cylinder should extend at least 1' above the deepest expected snow.

  • Use Tree Guard Repellent if encircling the plant is not practical.

Recommended Products

  • Loose Weave Burlap

  • Soft Twist Tie

  • Tree Wrap

  • Mulch

  • Tree Guard

Click here if you'd like to download a PDF of these winter protection instructions.

Spring Tips



April is a good time to transplant or move shrubs and trees. As spring arrives, the soil thaws out and becomes slightly dry. Transplanting at this time is important to minimize the shock your plant may experience in the move. Consequently, this needs to be done before leaves begin to develop on the plants. Carefully dig around the base of the plant to form a ball containing as much of the root system as possible. 


Divide Perennials

Perennials that have grown too large, are unhealthy, or are flowering poorly should be divided or moved at this time. Remember this rule: "If it blooms early, divide late. If it blooms late, divide early." Good examples of plants to divide in the spring are Ornamental Grasses, Russian Sage, and Monarda.


"Stir Up" the Mulch

Occasionally rake or "stir up" the mulch in your landscape to prevent weeds from growing. Mulches are organic and while less friendly to weeds than soil, weeds can still grow in them. There are many ways these seeds of weeds can end up in your mulch. As easy as it may be for the seeds to fall from a maple tree into your mulch, the wind can blow the seeds from that yellow dandelion growing in the lawn. This "stirring up" will keep the mulched area looking good and fresh with little effort.


Shrub Roses

A little work can go a long way to improve the appearance of your shrub roses if, in years past, they have not been growing as well as you'd like. An application of Bayer All In One Rose and Flower Care every 6 weeks will improve the health of the roses and help in preventing any diseases and insect trouble on the foliage. 

Stake Plants

Stake plants early in the season prior to any damage that may occur from wind or rain. While some plants such as Peonies, Delphiniums and some types of Iris may need staking, others may or may not need depending on factors such as where they are growing and how fast they are growing. Try to remember how these perennials looked last year. Did the flowers bend over when they came into bloom? If so, they may need staking.

Fertilize Your Lawn

Is your lawn not thriving as well as you'd like? Although the University of Minnesota says fall is the best time of year to apply a lawn fertilizer, you may also apply fertilizer in the spring. This would pertain to those lawns that receive full sun and frequent watering. A fertilizer such as 27-0-14 applied after the first spring mowing would do the most to improve your lawn.

Summer Tips


Remove Old Flowers

Remove the old faded flowers on shrub roses to improve the shape of the plant and encourage more flowers to bloom as the summer goes on. The plant will have new blooms continually throughout the summer if periodic cuts are made as each of the flowers fade. The stems need to be trimmed back to a length that will balance the shape of the plant.

Kill Weeds

Kill those perennial weeds that keep coming back year after year. A product such as Roundup is a good way to deal with pesky weeds. The spray will destroy any plant it comes in contact with, so care must be taken to ensure the product is only applied to areas you wish to kill. The spray nozzle on the Roundup container typically can be adjusted to a narrow stream or a fine mist to make spraying easier. Try spraying in the early part of the day when there is less wind.

Fertilize Acid Loving Plants

Fertilize acid loving plants, such as Azaleas, Rhododendrons, and Blue Hydrangea. These plants can slowly decline in health overtime due to the alkaline soils common in the metro area. Poor health can cause the nice green foliage of these plants to fade or yellow. Even the bright flowers may not be the color you once had. Once a year add 3 cups of Cottonseed meal into the top surface for every 25 square feet of root area. This will keep these plants thriving like they were when new!


Mulch Around the Trees

Did you know the majority of tree roots are in the top 18" of the soil? Mulching with organic mulches (e.g. hardwood and softwood bark and wood) is one of the best things you can do for your tree's health. The mulch will promote root growth by aiding in water retention and preventing competition from turf roots. Add a mulch layer 2-4" deep around the tree as wide as you can tolerate. To avoid stem damage, keep mulch away from the trunk.

Light Trimming

Summer blooming shrubs such as Weigela and several varieties of Spirea should be trimmed lightly after flowering. Removing the spent flowers and slightly improving the plant's shape will keep the plant looking neat for the rest of the summer. This trimming will also encourage some late flowering on the shrubs.

Holes on Your Hostas?

Do the leaves of your hostas look like Swiss cheese? Slugs are probably the problem if your hostas are located in a shady, moist area in your landscape. The slugs feed on plants during the night, so they are difficult to find, but if your hostas have these distinctive holes in the middle of the leaves the slugs have probably been there to feed. Although there are several ways to deal with slugs, a non-toxic product called Sluggo has proven to be very effective.


Unwanted Pests

Frustrated with pests such as rabbits or deer feeding on your landscape plants? Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to this problem. A barrier such as a fence is really the only proven method with success but how attractive is that? There are many products on the market which claim they work, but what may be working for your friend may not work for you at all. Your landscape will have different plants and different rabbits. We recommend starting with a small bottle of a product such as Hot Pepper Wax and see what result you have.

Move Your Perennials

Some of the perennials that are easiest to grow may be moved or divided during any cool period in the summer. Examples of these perennials include Hostas, Astilbes, and Heucheras. To move or divide perennials, carefully dig around the base of the plant forming a root ball containing as much of the root system as possible. Then, after lifting the root ball from the hole, use a sharp spade or knife to cut the ball into several smaller sections containing roots and stems. Feel free to trim away any large excess foliage. After replanting, remember to keep the plants moist until they are growing vigorously. Plan ahead for winter protection; lead time is needed to do the job correctly.

Lawn Repair

August is the best time of the year to seed a new lawn or repair an existing lawn. This window of opportunity remains open through the first half of September. The cooler temperatures and warm soil help grass seed take off and become well established by late fall. Sod also does very well in these conditions. The cooler weather promotes rooting and you don't need to water as often. If you are seeding, be careful not to overseed. Six to eight seeds per square inch are usually enough. Once the seed layer is down, cover it with a thin layer of peat moss and water regularly. Cut your new lawn when the grass is about 3" tall, leaving at least 2" or more.

Fall tips


Fertilize Your Lawn

Fall is the best time of the year to fertilize your lawn. An early September application of a fall winterizer fertilizer, such as 18-0-12, is the best. In addition, if the lawn continues to grow due to a long warm fall a second application in late October is also very good.


Keep Watering

Don't put those hoses away yet! Many plants breath and need moisture during the winter, especially evergreens. Evergreens need to be watered throughout the fall until freeze up. Decrease, but don't eliminate, the amount of watering on deciduous trees and shrubs (our leafy friends) until they drop their leaves. Once their leaves drop, stop watering and allow them to go dormant. Plants can be better prepared for those dryer winter days if they have been watered several times prior to the ground freezing. Hoses can be left outside all winter, just leave them rolled up on the ground and remember to drain the water out of them.

Divide Perennials

Perennials that have grown too large, are unhealthy, or are flowering poorly should be divided or moved at this time. Remember this rule: "If it blooms early, divide late. If it blooms late, divide early." Good examples of plants to divide in the fall are Peonies, Coreopsis and Bleeding Hearts.


Protect Trees and Shrubs

Protect young trees and shrubs from animal damage. There are many plants that provide a tasty treat for animals such as rabbits, deer, and mice. Hardware cloth works well on trees with young bark, especially crabapples and serviceberry. A fence of chicken wire surrounding the base of a desirable shrub such as euonymus or barberry is a good idea. Remember, the depth of the snow can increase during the winter that will enable an animal such as a rabbit to chew on plant parts they normally would not be able to reach. Don't forget to account for the height of the snow as well. Some critters, like rabbits, walk on top of the snow while others, like moles, walk underneath.


Remove Buckthorn

Fall is the perfect time of year to remove buckthorn from your yard. You don't have to know which plants are buckthorn, nature will tell you. As the leaves change and fall off the plants, look for shrubs or trees that are still green. That is the buckthorn. Some may have black berries on the branches. Cut down the buckthorn and apply a brush killer, such as Vine-X, to kill the stump. It is easy to use because it has its own built-in paintbrush. It requires no mixing or pumping.

Mulch Your Plants for Winter

This is the time of year to mulch the plants in your landscape. The purpose of mulching plants for winter isn't to protect them from the cold, it's to protect them from the alternate freeze-thaw cycle that does so much damage. Ideally, you want the top inch or two of soil to be frozen solid before applying winter mulch. Select mulch that will not compact and will provide good insulation. Leaves are most commonly used for mulching, but hay and stray can be used as well.

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