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How To Prepare & Care for Your Garden in the Winter

You’ve enjoyed a lovely garden all spring and summer, but sadly the nice weather is coming to an end. Once the temperature starts to drop and you see leaves changing on trees, you know fall has arrived and, with it, a list of garden chores. To ensure another beautiful bloom next year, you’ll need to do some winter garden prep. This guide will teach you how to prepare your garden for winter so that it stays healthy through the cold and ready for spring.

Winter Garden Prep

The first thing you’ll need to do to prepare your garden for winter is remove dead or finished plants. If left, these plants can invite pests and diseases that you’ll have to deal with next spring. You can bury old plants to add organic material to your soil. If you have any invasive weeds, you’ll definitely want to get rid of those as well so they don’t come back after winter.

Once you’ve removed plants, focus on giving your soil a little TLC. If you normally till your soil in the spring, do it in the fall as well. This will help loosen the soil and improve drainage, which will be key during winter. Add manure, compost and other soil enrichment agents next. Try and do this before the first frost so the soil has enough time to soak in the extra nutrients for a springtime soil that is ahead of the curve. You can also cover the soil for added protection against the elements.

Preparing Flower Beds for Winter

Now that your garden is clean and the soil is prepped, you can move on to preparing the flower bed for winter. Most likely, you’ve already removed your annuals in the first phase of cleaning. Any remaining will need to be removed once they are done blooming. Perennials, however, will come back, so you will want to make sure they are in good shape before winter is in full force. After the first frost, prune perennials so they are 4 to 6 inches tall. Remove any slimy leaves as they can be breeding grounds for pests and disease. Some perennials will require special treatment, so you may want to research your specific flowers to make sure you prune and protect them correctly.

Fall means it’s time to plant spring bulbs. Before planting new bulbs, dig up, divide and replant any crowded plants. Bulbs should be planted 4 to 8 inches from the stalk to ensure plenty of growing room. Make sure to note where you’ve planted your spring bulbs so you’ll know what to expect when the blooming season comes back around.

Finally, any trees or shrubs should be given plenty of water before the freezing temperatures start. Add extra organic materials around those areas to help maintain moisture levels. You’ll also want to trim any damaged or diseased limbs so that winter storms don’t do that for you.

Preparing Vegetable Gardens for Winter

Preparing your vegetable garden for winter is very similar to preparing your flower garden. You’ll need to do some soil management and remove any dead or rotten vegetables. Prune your herbs, and keep in mind that some herbs are very cold-hardy and will be ready to harvest well into winter. Certain vegetables do really well in winter. Kale, brussels sprouts and broccoli all become sweeter with cold weather, so plan to harvest those later. Otherwise, clean and prep your garden as mentioned above, and you’ll be in good shape for next spring’s vegetable patch.

Garden Covers for Winter

One great way to take care of your soil during the winter is to protect it from the nasty weather with a cover. Garden cover types include:

  • Mulch - Adding a nice thick layer of mulch to your garden bed will provide natural insulation to the soil, and because it is an organic material, it enriches the soil and breaks down.
  • Cover crops - Cover crops are great because they are another organic material that will strengthen your soil and protect it from the elements.
  • Frost blankets - Made with special polypropylene material, frost blankets keep heat in and cold out. Frost blankets will vary in thickness, so if you live in a particularly cold area, a thicker blanket will be best for you. You can lay your frost blanket directly onto your garden, but it is recommended to build a solid framework to drape your frost blanket on.

Proper Garden Storage

You can extend the life of your garden tools and equipment by properly storing them during winter. We recommend first organizing the space in which you keep your gardening tools. Whether this is a shed, garage or spare cupboard, make sure it is clean and ready. This will make putting things away and finding them later much easier. Now you’re ready to put away your garden materials.

How To Store Potting Soil

If you find yourself with half-empty potting soil bags, you’ll want to store them properly so you can still use them later. If you’re not sure how to store potting soil, the key is to keep moisture away. First, inspect the soil bag for any bugs, rips or holes. Remove the bugs and close any tears so the bag is sealed. Close the top of the bag with packing tape if it doesn’t have a zip closure. Next, put the bag in a large airtight storage tub. This will keep moisture out during the winter months. Lastly, find a cool, dry area to keep the storage tub. You’ll want to check in on the soil once a month to ensure no mold is growing. Otherwise, once winter has passed, you’ll have quality soil ready to go!

How To Store Garden Tools

Before storing garden tools, you’ll need to clean and sharpen them. Give tools a good wash, removing excess dirt and rust. Sharpen any dull tools, such as shovels or picks. Lastly, rub tools with light machine oil to help prevent oxidation. Let dry and then put away.

Collect hoses, nozzles, sprinkler attachments and watering cans, and put them into storage as well. Leaving any of these out can decrease their lifespan. You’ll want to make sure hoses are dry before storing them.

Plan Ahead

Now that you’ve done all the hard work, take a moment to reflect on your season’s blooms and busts. You can keep a journal and note what plants thrived and what plants weren’t so successful. Start outlining what plants you want to grow next season, and consider extending your garden’s life by planting earlier and later.