November is here and the temperatures are falling so most gardeners think that the gardening season is over. Actually, winter is the best time for planning, re-landscaping and cleanup in the landscape because plants are not actively growing.

Now is the time for a landscape designer or the homeowners to make a landscape plan for next year. They should study the habits and actions of the family, understand their desires and needs, and determine what space and materials are available. Then the design needs to be determined on how they may use the information to accomplish their landscaped goals.

A plan starts by making a list of desired roles each area of the landscape will make before making the actual plan. The list should consider the functions of public entrance area, sitting and dining area, barbecue grill, dog pen, wind protection, privacy, vegetable garden, compost, children’s play area and storage. Most homes will have a public area, family living area, service area and private living area.

With these areas in mind, begin by drawing a simple sketch showing the general location of the elements needed in relation to the house and the landscape. Once the gardener has a plan in place, small adjustment every year or two will keep the gardener from starting from scratch. With the plan in hand, check plant catalogs and local nurseries for possible plant varieties and landscape hardware that will work in the landscape.

As a landscape matures, plants change, such as trees get taller and cast deeper shade, bushes outgrow their original area or some plants die leaving a bare spot. Because changes in the garden can happen slowly over the years, the gardener might overlook the obvious, such as an increase in shade or plant material that becomes dangerous to pedestrians. Or, maybe the gardener added a deck and now traffic patterns have changed or the focal point of the garden is in the wrong place.

Again, this winter develop a plan. Take one area at a time and think about how that area should look. When that area is finished, then move on to the next.

In evaluating the existing garden, the gardener may find that some plants don’t perform as well as they have in the past. One of the biggest changes that can creep up silently on a garden is the growth of trees and shrubs. They not only grow taller and larger, but they can dramatically influence what can and cannot grow under or around them.

Trees can be trimmed to thin out branches and allow more filtered light through to the ground. In extreme cases, such as too many trees planted close together, removal of some of the trees may be the answer.

Overgrown shrubs can also be trimmed back or removed entirely if no longer desirable. A severe trimming can often rejuvenate old woody shrubs. Winter is a good time to do severe trimming, because the shrub is dormant for the winter. Once they begin growing again in the spring, the gardener can control future shaping.

Almost every home has a problem area. A simple cleanup is the first order of business. For example, dead, dying plants can be removed, leaves and stems can be cleaned up and old mulch can be rejuvenated. A new dirt pathway can be spruced up with mulch or a layer of gravel and the addition of stepping-stones.

To prevent the spread of diseases, remove spent flowers, fallen leaves and stems and any dead parts of the plants. A layer of leaves left on the turf grass will reduce evaporation and the resulting humidity can encourage diseases. Winter cleanup plays a critical role in preventing outbreak of many kinds of insect and pests that winter in several plants.

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