Michigan is subject to harsh winters with bitter temperatures. Trees, shrubs, bulbs and perennials all must be winterized for protection against the winds and cold. Mulching is not the answer for winterizing landscape plants in Michigan. The mulch acts as a warm house for rodents, insects and disease. Preparations made in the fall protect the plants during the cold days of winter and keep plants healthy for spring. Techniques like watering, spray barriers and burlap ensure the landscape plants suffer as little damage as possible when the cold winds blow and temperatures drop.
Mow the lawn one last time late in the fall, cutting it shorter than usual. Cutting the blades of grass shorter exposes the older grass blades, which grow slower and can handle cooler temperatures. Don't walk on the lawn once hard frost hits to keep from damaging the grass.
Prune trees and shrubs to remove dead or diseased branches. Wrap the trunks of young shrubs and trees to protect them against the harsh winds. Tie the branches of bushy evergreens together so they don't break under the weight of a heavy snow.
Clean the flower beds and gardens to remove weeds, dead flowers and other unwanted growth. Removing the dead foliage reduces the chance of insects and bacteria surviving over the winter in the garden.
Dig up tender bulbs and store them in a cool, dry place. Cover remaining bulbs with wire netting or chicken wire to protect the bulbs from rodents during the winter. Remove the wire protection in the spring before the bulbs start growing.
Cover tender or newly planted shrubs with burlap to protect them against winds and severe cold. Instead of mulch, mound up soil around the main stem to keep the ground from heaving during heavy freezes.
Apply a slow-release fertilizer late in the fall to allow the landscape plants to feed before going dormant and to provide food for spring growth. Avoid using a standard fertilizer so the plant does not add new growth before winter.
Apply an anti-transpirant spray to evergreen shrubs and trees to protect them from moisture loss in the winter. The heavy winds can cause plants to lose moisture. Anti-tranpsirant sprays were developed to help retain moisture in the needles and leaves of plants during the winter months.