How to Prepare Your Garden for Winter

As winter quickly approaches, it’s time to make sure you provide your garden the care it needs so that your plants come back healthy in the spring. Here are some tips to help you organize your efforts.

Mulch to Protect Your Plants Against Cold Temperatures

Winterizing your plants begins with giving them a blanket against the cold in the form of mulch. There are myriad mulching materials to choose from such as straw, bark, leaves, or even newspaper. The purpose of mulch is to protect the roots from winter damage and the soil from the frequent freeze and thaw cycles. Plus, as mulch breaks down it adds nutrients to the system. Apply your mulch to a depth of three to five inches for proper insulation.

Save Deadheading for Early Spring

Someone deadheading a flower bush.

Deadheading is best done early in the fall as the plants naturally die back, or in early spring as they begin to grow for the season. It’s advantageous to deadhead plants to minimize pests and disease that take cover within the moist leaves. However, if you missed your opportunity earlier in the season, it’s best to leave the heads attached to the plant during the winter. Not only does this give foraging animals a food source, but it also makes the plant stronger in the spring. Plants, like humans, are sensitive to the cold so if you make major cutbacks during the cold or just before it hits, the plant has a difficult time protecting itself. Instead, hold off for the spring.

Offer Cover for Shallow-Rooted Plants

Many plants overwinter just fine without any protection from the elements. One major factor to their success, however, is the climate in the area where you live. If you have young plants that are not yet established, potted plants with less protection from the elements, or shallow-rooted plants that will struggle to avoid damage, offer them cover. Place potted plants into a greenhouse or acclimate them to the house. For perennials in the ground, provide a light plastic cover in addition to the mulch. Some plants even prefer to be wrapped in a frame made of chicken wire and stuffed with leaves or straw. Burlap is another helpful material to protect plants, such as evergreens, from harsh winter winds.

Consider Plants that Thrive in Winter Conditions for Next Year

Although images of winter landscapes often conjure up bare tree branches and shrubs buried in snow, there are plants that thrive during the winter months. The English marigold (Calendula officinalis) is a fairly low-growing but colorful addition to the winter blahs. With its daisy-like pattern, it will bloom fall to spring in milder climates. Pansies are another option that would likely steal the show during the dreary months. Candytufts (Iberis) also holds good color well into the winter. You will want to consider your planting zone for precise recommendations, but other options include boxwood, colorful winter berries, and bulbs like snowdrop and winter aconite. Also remember evergreens such as the blue spruce, arborvitae, cedar, and fir varietals.

Although winter is often thought of as a garden-less season, a little dedication and well-chosen options can provide you color during the dark months and ensure that your plants will bounce back in the spring when you can enjoy their splendor once again.