Q: I have a large bed of Lily-of-the-Valley. It is dying off and turning brown for the coming winter. Should I cut them back or let nature take its course until spring?
C.R. of Trenton
A: Just let nature takes its course for the winter and nothing is necessary until after they bloom in spring. You can propagate these plants in spring after flowering by thinning and replanting.
Q: When should I winterize my roses? So far it has not been too cold, am I correct? How deep should the mulch be applied?
C. K. of Belleville
A: Right now you want to pick up and remove any rose debris, such as dead stems and leaves of rose plants. You need to have at least two or three freezes before you add the protective winter mulch. A twelve inch mulching or approximately five gallons should be enough to cover the graft union. This amount of mulch will also prevent rabbits from feeding on the stems. You can also tie the canes up with twine. Start by wrapping the twine around the base of the lower branches and then wind the twine upward in a spiral. Do not attempt to prune the stems until late winter or spring as this can cause die-back of the pruned stems if done too early.
You can use rose cones but you will have to weigh them with a brick at the bottom of the mulch to prevent a strong winter wind from blowing them away. Nothing else is necessary until you notice new growth starting in spring. Then you can remove the twine, mulch, and cone. Remember not to injure the new growth.
Q: When should a person wrap young trees for protection and how should it be applied?
S. K. of Fairview Heights
A: Tree wrapping should be applied when the air temperatures stay below freezing to protect the main trunk from shrinking on cold winter nights and expanding the bark from the bright sunlight during the day. Start by applying the wrap starting at the bottom of the main trunk and overlapping it as you wind it up to the lowest lateral branches. You then can use masking tape to hold the tree wrap in place and not girdle the tree. The wrap will help keep the bark from forming ‘frost cracks’. The wrap will also prevent borers and rodent damage. You will have to wrap these young trees for at least four years or until the bark begins to show ridges or a thicker coat of bark forming.
If you cannot find tree wrap, use burlap strips for wrapping. The colder the winter weather, the more tree wrapping is necessary.
Q: Someone told me that you need to mulch strawberries now to prevent flower bud damage. Is this true?
G. R. of Collinsville
A: Strawberries should be mulched when the temperatures are 15 to 20 degrees as the floral buds have already been set. Mulching will prevent destroying these buds and also prevent heaving (lifting the plants above the soil). Do not use grass clippings or tree leaves as a mulch as they smother the strawberry plants. Straw usually works the best as that is why they are called strawberries.