How to winterize a perennial garden

Credit: iStock / B. Braley

Q: I live in Ottawa, Ontario, which is in zone 5. This year, I covered all my flower beds with leaves, and now I am wondering if I should have done this. I am away all winter and return home at the end of April. Do you think that it will be a problem if I am not back in time to clean up the leaves when plants start growing. Should I cover “all” my garden with leaves or only the tender perennials? —Marilyn

Yes, cover all the beds with leaves. That way, there is an even “blanket” over all the plants that will protect from frost. If you are not back until April, it’s not a problem, as the leaves will start to decay into a mulch and help suppress weeds. Ottawa and the rest of Canada, including B.C., can still get a cold snap in April.

If you want to, you can collect the leaves in April and put them into a garbage bin. Put your weed whacker into the bin and blend into a fine puree (dry, of course), then spread this as a mulch throughout the garden.