14 Things to Do in the Garden During Winter

Raised garden beds covered in plastic for the winter.

It may be winter, but that doesn't mean you should go into hibernation when it comes to gardening. Your landscaping and plants still need a lot of maintenance even though it's not an ample growing season. Take care of some essential winter garden tasks and your beds will be healthy and ready for spring planting once the weather starts to warm up again. (Bonus: you’ll see a noticeable difference in the way your garden grows in the next season.)

1. Cover Beds to Kill Weeds

If you have garden beds that look hopeless because they're filled with weeds, cover them completely with black plastic. Leave the beds covered throughout the winter to kill all the weeds, and you'll be ready for planting come spring.

2. Empty Your Pots

Upside down terra cotta pots in a garden.

Completely empty any of your outdoor planters and pots to prevent cracking and damage. Store pots upside down until you're ready to use them again in the spring.

3. Remove the Old

Remove any weeds that may have found their way into your winter garden, and clear away old mulch.

4. Clean Up to Keep Pests Away

A pile of pulled weeds with someone weeding in the background.

Clear away any dead or dying plants and vegetables in an effort to keep pests and disease at bay. Pests and blight can still thrive in winter months, wreaking havoc and damaging your garden beds. Remove any old plants and throw them away, or add them to the compost pile as long as they are free of pests and blight.

5. Gather Leaves for Mulch

Those leaves that seem so annoying in the fall can actually be gold for a winter garden. Gather as many leaves as you can and add them to your compost pile. Come spring, you'll have rich compost to make your garden grow even more beautifully once the weather warms.

6. Remove Bulbs to Prevent Frost Damage

A collection of garden bulbs.

Dig up your bulbs and store them in a cool, dark location so they will survive the winter. You want to remove bulbs from the garden bed before frost, so no damage occurs.

7. Dig up Root Vegetables

Lots of root vegetables, such as turnips and potatoes, continue to live even after a winter frost—but not much longer. Dig up any root vegetables still remaining in the garden, so you'll start with fresh beds next season.

8. Till the Soil to Remove Pests

A close-up of a metal tool tilling soil.

Till your soil gently, turning the top two or three inches to remove any pests that may be attempting to winter in your garden beds.

9. Prepare Your Perennials

After the ground has frozen for winter, cut your perennials back to about three inches above the soil and add a thick layer of mulch to keep the soil warm.

10. Add Mulch to Prevent Weeds

Mulch covered in snow.

After cleaning away all the old mulch and debris in your garden beds, add another one or two inches of compost and mulch to prevent weeds from growing and enrich the soil.

11. Wait for Weeds

It may be winter, but weeds will always grow in the garden. Continue to check your garden once a week, or once every two weeks, and remove weeds at they appear. Even in winter, these weeds will sap nutrients from your soil and ruin your spring garden plans.

12. Prune Trees and Shrubs

Someone pruning a tree.

Prune away dead and broken leaves from your ornamental trees and shrubs, cutting the branches close to the trunk. Make clean, quick cuts to avoid damage to living parts of the plant.

13. Scrub Your Tools

A row of gardening tools hanging on a wall.

Clean all your garden tools well, removing all debris and dirt. Cover all blades and metal parts with a thin layer of vegetable oil to prevent rust. Store all your tools properly so you can find them again in the spring.

14. Protect Sensitive Plants

Plants in snow covered in burlap.

Saplings and shrubs that could be damaged by winter cold should be covered. Do not use plastic for this, or it will kill plants. Material like burlap will provide protection for young and sensitive plants. Use twine to hold the fabric in place, and check on plants periodically to be sure they're surviving the winter.

Prepare your garden properly for the winter season, and you’ll have more beautiful plants, healthier veggies, and pretty landscaping in spring and summer. A little winter garden work will make a huge difference while also keeping you from doing a whole lot more work when it’s time to plant again.