Winter Landscape Maintenance Tips

December 2011

Outdoor Lighting for PathsHere in Portland, landscape maintenance is a year-round job. In the winter, landscaping maintenance involves clearing out old plant material, nurturing the landscape after storms, and planning for future growth. Below, we’ve listed the most important winter landscaping maintenance tasks suggested by Portland landscape maintenance experts.

Cultivate Cuttings to Propagate Favorite Species

Even in the dead of winter you can enjoy the pleasure of watching plants develop. Various ornamental shrubs and trees may be clipped and propagated in small jars or pots. When placed in sunny spots, these fledgling flora will flourish. Certain species, such as coleus, will grow roots into plain water. They may be suspended in the lid of a jar until their roots are strong enough to grow in soil. Hardier shrubs may be planted directly in one-gallon pots filled with nutrient-rich soil. It’s wonderful to multiply your garden stock in this way during the dark days of winter, when cold weather prevents you from enjoying the outdoors. Geraniums, gardenias and viburnums are only a few of the varieties that can be multiplied over the winter months to fill out your garden in the spring.

Practice Good Post-Storm Winter Landscape Maintenance

Acer Tree After Pruning Portland LandscapingWe rarely see hard frosts in Western Oregon, but they do happen now and then. If a hard frost hits, avoid walking on the turf until it has thawed out. Snow is even less common here, but if it does pile up, it can put too much pressure on tree branches. Following a heavy snowstorm, walk around your yard and shake off branches that appear to be sagging under the weight of the snow. Ice storms do happen on occasion on this side of the Cascades; let ice melt naturally rather than trying to shake it off; branches brittle with ice could easily snap. Other post-storm landscape maintenance tasks include clearing away fallen branches, checking for damage to the landscape, and planning replacement species that may have been lost to storms.

Remove Dead Organic Material, Including Leaves

Garden Design with WalkwayThroughout the fall and early winter, you’ll need to keep up a routine of detritus removal. Rake and sweep up leaves, cut back brown plants, and remove any excess organic material from your yard. Be especially sure to remove leaves from the base of plants, where harmful fungi can grow. Save cleared away leaves and other organic materials for compost or top dressing later on.

Apply Mulch

Speaking of top dressings, early winter is an excellent time for mulching. Place mulch over any exposed soil to insulate soil, provide nutrients and discourage weed growth all winter long.

Care for Landscaping Maintenance Tools

Clean clipper blades with rubbing alcohol. Sap may be removed by applying a cloth dampened with a little paint thinner. Rust should be removed from shovels, hoes and other landscape maintenance implements. Brush away rust using sandpaper, a wire brush or a drill with a brush attachment. Finally, you will want to sharpen your tools before spring rolls around. If you don’t already have a preferred sharpening system, consult with a Portland landscape maintenance expert to learn more about how to sharpen garden tools.

Plan Next Spring’s Garden

Portland landscape maintenance gurus recommend keeping a garden journal to help you track which species do well in your space. Winter is the perfect time to review your journal and note plants that struggled over the past year. Read gardening books and consult online resources to figure out which species would thrive in those tricky spots.