The Best Ways To Winterize Your Garden

This is the ideal time to prepare your garden for the winter months ahead. Properly winterizing the garden will not only help plants survive the short gray days and bitter nights that winter brings, it’s an important step in ensuring the garden will produce colorful flowers in the spring.

While it appears as if all activity in the garden has stopped, there’s a lot going on under the soil until it freezes. Newly transplanted trees and shrubs, divisions of perennials, and hardy bulbs are all growing roots, drawing on soil nutrients and moisture around them.

Here’s what you need to do to prepare your garden to withstand winter:

Chop, clip, cut and clean.

Tidy up the garden by removing spent stalks and other plant debris that might become a winter incubator for pests and diseases. Removing dead and dying foliage will give your garden a cared-for look all winter and free you up from grooming chores in the spring when you’d rather be doing fun things … such as adding new plants to the garden.

Remove all the weeds, debris and invasive plants.

Fall is when weeds go to seed – pods and seed cases burst open to release them. If there’s no time to pull plants up by the roots, chop or clip off their heads before the seeds are released. Discard all seed heads in the trash pile, not on the compost heap. If you have a large weed patch, smother it over winter by covering it with a large sheet of black plastic weighted down by bricks or rocks.

Baby the beds.

After tidying up the garden and replanting divided plants, add compost, as much as 3-4 inches, to the beds. Nutrients from the mulch will leach into the beds during winter rains. The remnants of the compost can be turned into the soil in the spring.

Fertilize the lawn.

Fertilizing is generally not recommended for plants heading into the winter, because it causes new growth that can be damaged by cold. But lawns are an exception and should be fertilized in fall. If your grass has just endured a long, hot summer, fertilize it in mid-fall.

Plant spring-blooming bulbs.

Fall is the right time to plant hardy, spring-blooming bulbs. Don’t put it off too late – if the ground gets drenched by rains or freezes, it will be very difficult to do this. Buy large, firm bulbs and plant them at the depth recommended by the vendor for your area. A rule of thumb is to sink them to a depth of two or three times their diameter.

Protect bark on young trees.

Protect the tender bark of young trees especially fruit trees from gnawing critters and fluctuating day and night temperatures by wrapping stems or trunks with wire or commercial tree-guard products.

Create wind breaks.

Exposed evergreens are also susceptible to wind burn. In the fall before the ground freezes, drive three stakes into the ground on the windward side of plants you want to protect. Put the stakes in a “V” formation with the front stake facing the wind and wrap burlap or landscape fabric around the stakes. It is not necessary to wrap the entire plant.

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