Gardening entails commitment, and with it comes the taking care of your garden and preparing it so that your plants can withstand any changes in climate.
Now that December is coming, there are a lot of things you can do to make your garden winter-ready. In this article, you’ll find 15 useful steps how to prepare your garden for winter and to ultimately help you stay ahead of the gardening game.
Tip #1: Eliminate any finished or rotting plants
The thing with leaving rotting plants in your garden is that it can harbor pests, funguses, and plant diseases, apart from making your garden look untidy. Also, pests are known to lay their eggs on dead plants during the start of spring, according to this study from the Colorado State University. For this reason, it’s a good idea to get rid of their nesting places as early as possible.
Tip #2: Start tidying up garden paths and paving
Before winter comes, start clearing your garden from dried leaves that have accumulated in your garden during the fall season. Use a stiff brush and soapy water to clean out debris from any concrete paths. Frost can make surfaces slippery, so tidying up garden paths early prevents the risk of slipping accidents.
Tip #3: Pull out all weeds
If weeds have been appearing in your garden, now is the time to pull them out. Weeds compete with your plants for light, nutrients, and water which causes your plants to grow a lot slower than normal.
After pulling out the weeds, put them in a bag and throw them out or you can burn them alongside the dried leaves you just cleaned up. Pulling out weeds before winter makes sure they won’t be an added nuisance to your plants during the winter season.
Tip #4: Clean ponds and other water structures
Ponds often clog up due to falling leaves from nearby trees. Before the fall season ends, start taking out any fallen leaves from the water and cover the pond temporarily with a net.
If your pond has fish in it, you can prevent the water from freezing by placing large, inflated balls on the surface and leaving them to float there. You can also use plastic bottles filled with water and partially filled with small stones. Water is less likely to freeze if small things are floating on its surface.
Tip #5: Prep the soil for spring
Although you’ll still have to go through winter, preparing your garden early for spring has so many benefits. First, adding nutrients to your soil early will give it time to break down and enrich the soil continuously throughout the winter. Secondly, tilling your soil helps improve soil drainage in preparation for an extreme winter. Third, covering the soil with a temporary cover can help protect your garden from winter rains.
Tip #6: Move frost-sensitive plants into your garden greenhouse
Agapanthus, Cannas, and palms do not do well in extremely cold weather. Start moving these plants into the greenhouse. If you have palm trees planted on the ground, you can protect them by wrapping horticultural fleece around their trunks.
Tip #7: Plant cover crops
Soil erosion happens during winter. To prevent this, you can plant cover crops such as clover and field peas during the early fall season.
In addition to increasing the level of nitrogen in the soil, cover crops also increase organic matter in the soil, thus increasing the nutrients as well. Plus, they also help break up compacted areas without necessarily leading to soil erosion.
Tip #8: Replenish your mulch supply
Mulch is any material that you spread over the ground to cover it. Applying mulch helps reduce water loss, prevents weeds from growing, and protects the soil from erosion.
Before the winter sets in, start preparing your winter mulch and add a thick layer to help preserve moisture and regulate the soil temperature. The mulch also adds an extra layer of protection against hard frosts, making your plants last longer for the winter.
Also, if you have any hoses buried underneath the ground or under mulch, depending on the type of hose that is buried, you may need to dig it up and store it away for the winter season.
Tip #9: Prepare your herbs
Find out the different tolerance levels of your herbs towards the cold weather. Some herbs can tolerate the cold while some can’t. Sage, for example, doesn’t require extra protection during the winter but could very well benefit from a trim. Parsley, on the other hand, does better covered if you live in colder regions.
Tip #10: Check for any needed repairs
Check if your garden structures need to undergo any maintenance work. Check your greenhouse or fences for any decaying wood or pest infestations. You’ll want to start this even before the snow starts falling because it’ll be too cold to be doing maintenance work outdoors during the winter. Plus, it’ll eliminate any risks of accidents and will keep your garden structures in top shape during the cold weather.
You will also want to store away any garden decorations and accessories you may have that are not good to keep out in the winter all season long.
Tip #11: Replenish your compost heap
If you’ve prepared a compost heap over the summer, it’s probably ready by now. Use this compost to nourish deficient soils, top up your garden beds, and fertilize your lawns. Once you use up the compost, make another batch with autumn leaves, sawdust, straw and kitchen scraps. Making a fresh batch before winter will give the compost enough time to break down and become ready for use in spring.
Tip #12: Clean out your garden tools
Take out your garden tools and give them some maintenance care before winter sets in. Use a wire brush or sandpaper to remove rust, and a basic mill file to sharpen your shovels and hoes. You can also have a whetstone ready on-hand to sharpen other tools. Lastly, rub the surfaces of any metal tools with oil to protect it from rusting caused by oxygen exposure.
Tip #13: Divide your crowded plants and plant spring bulbs
Once frost sets onto crowded plants, it’ll be harder to separate them. To prevent this, check for plants that appear too crowded or straggly and divide them. You can also check for growing stalks and dig around 4-8 inches away from them just to loosen up the soil.
Once you have some space around your garden bed, plant some spring bulbs to allow them to grow during the winter. Once spring sets in, you’ll find new little plants growing in your garden.
Tip #14: Prepare your lawn
Remove moss and thatch from your lawn using a rake and soapy water. If the moss persists, consider checking for any drainage issues. For worse cases, you can use an autumn lawn feed or several moss killer products. Moss tends to make surfaces slippery so it’s better to get them out of the way early before the winter.
Tip #15: Prune all perennials
Do your research on which plants need to be pruned before winter and which ones shouldn’t. Fennels, for example, grow better when pruned, but raspberry canes can be left alone. Blueberries, on the other hand, should be pruned in spring because they tend to be more vulnerable to stress and disease during the cold season. Blackberries are better trimmed during the fall.
Final Thoughts On Prepping Your Garden for Winter
I hope you enjoyed these tips and now can prepare your garden efficiently for winter! There are other steps you can take to ensure a winter-ready garden, but hopefully the tips listed above are a great start for you and your garden.
What did I miss? I want to hear from you so I can add other ways to this list!