Fall can hit fast, which means it’s time to start winterizing your garden. Depending on what you’re growing in your garden, getting it ready for the colder months will ensure a better harvest next year. It’s particularly important for newly transplanted shrubs and trees, hardy spring bulbs, and divisions of perennials.
Discover some of the most effective ways of getting ready for next year’s gardening season. Don’t leave that treasured soil bare to the elements.
8 Tips to Prepare Your Garden for Winter
1. Clean your garden
Before you start winterizing your garden, it’s critical to clean it. Garden debris provides excellent food and shelter for pests. Leaving the diseased, dying, and dead plants helps insects survive and thrive. Removing garden debris in the fall ensures less pests in spring.
If you have trouble removing tough roots like broccoli or cabbage stems, you can leave them until spring. Not only will they be easier to remove, but they will also aid in loosening and aerating the soil.
Digging the weed out by its roots will make it more vulnerable to harsh winter weather. If you just tear it off at the surface, you risk having more weeds during next year’s gardening season. Dead plants might become part of your compost pile – just make sure they don’t show any signs of disease.
The majority of invasive weeds stay viable in a compost pile, so ensure you eliminate them completely. Otherwise, they can sprout and disrupt next year’s crop.
2. Get a soil test done
If you’re serious about gardening and you’re looking for a great harvest next year, consider testing your garden soil. It will show the results on nutrients like phosphorus, potassium, etc., pH levels, organic matter, and the overall health of the soil. You can send your soil sample to a local extension office’s lab or test your soil at home with a special soil testing kit.
Once you receive the result, cure your soil over the winter to start next year’s gardening season with absolutely fertile soil. Improve your garden soil with organic soil amendments, such as old hay mulch, clean grass clippings, or well-composted manure.
You can also top your garden beds off with homemade organic compost. Composting saves your budget while turning your garden garbage into useful organic compost.
3. Take care of your perennials
Unless perennials are hardy in your area, they grow year after year. Every plant survives cold weather in a different way. Generally, hardy perennials don’t require much effort from you to get them ready for colder months.
In areas that experience tons of thawing and freezing, frost can make perennials get pushed out of the ground. You can ward it off by placing a thick layer of straw, chopped leaves, or any other type of mulch around your plants. This will even out the soil temperature, especially in the areas that have little to no snow throughout winter.
Oftentimes the dead leaves of perennials protect the roots and crown from the cold. Moreover, some perennials, including ornamental grasses, purple coneflowers, and sedums have seeds that birds can eat to survive. If you don’t feel like leaving perennials, cut them to the ground as soon as frost withered the leaves. Don’t forget to place a layer of mulch to protect the roots.
4. Take care of the bulbs
Plant hardy spring-blooming bulbs and dig up tender ones. The tender bulbs like dahlias, cannas, and gladiolus, won’t survive in the area where the ground freezes. Dig up tender bulbs and cut away the leaves. Brush off the soil, let the bulbs dry, and put them in a cardboard box or any other breathable container. Avoid washing tender bulbs as excessive dampness might contribute to rotting during storage.
5. Prepare your shrubs and trees for winter
Avoid pruning shrubs and trees late in fall or right before winter. Leave them until next spring – even if shrubs and trees look overgrown. Otherwise, open wounds won’t heal during colder weather and the tree or shrub might die. Since pruning promotes the growth of a shrub or tree, stimulating any new growth during cold months will kill the tree or shrub as it doesn’t have any time to become woodier or harden off.
Protect deciduous shrubs and small trees from heavy snow by covering them with a wooden structure. You can also circle small trees with a chicken wire fencing cylinder and fill in space with shredded leaves or straw. You can also drive four stakes into the ground around the tree or shrub and wrap burlap around the stakes, securing it at the bottom, center, and top with twine.
If your garden has young fruit trees, wrap the lower trunk of them with a pest-proof tree wrap. This will keep voles and mice from gnawing on the bark of young fruit trees during the winter. Tree wrapping seems to require a lot of effort and time. However, it will ensure your trees will flourish next year as well as reduce the risk of premature thawing.
6. Replenish mulch
Fall or winter mulching boasts tons of benefits. Mulching involves the processes of inhibiting weeds, protecting the soil from erosion, and preventing water loss. Winter mulching makes the transition into winter easier by controlling the soil’s moisture and temperatures. Add a thick layer of mulch to the soil surface around root vegetables to prolong your crop.
7. Reconsider under-performing plants
If some varieties of fruits and veggies perform poorly this season, it’s time to reconsider your under-performing plants. You can also enhance your harvest by planting varieties that ripen early or late in the season. If some plants don’t perform adequately, you might either give them a second chance or get rid of them.
8. Do general garden maintenance
Apart from preparing your garden for winter, you should clean the tools, too. Wash, dry, sharpen, and oil the blades of your tools. Wash and store your garden pots and seed trays. Also, fix any broken garden equipment or replace it with a new one.
Fall is also a great time to expand your garden for next year. Consider adding more garden beds and clearing that space of weeds.
Putting your garden to bed for winter is essential. Although nature has its own ways of handling the cold months, there are a few things you can do to help your garden survive this winter. From protecting shrubs and trees to covering garden soil, the aforementioned tips will help you winterize your garden beds with little effort.
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.