Now that spring and summer have passed, it is time to begin thinking ahead to the next season. This, of course, starts with winterizing your garden! To effectively winterize gardens, it’s important to follow some key steps at a time before the first freeze comes around. This preparation cuts down on time needed to revive your garden in the spring and is essential for specific plant life cycles. Continue reading for tips on how to winterize a garden to transition from winter to spring seamlessly.
When Is the Best Time to Winterize Gardens?
The best time to winterize your garden is in the fall. To be specific, it's before the first frost. Once the temperatures get at or fall below the freezing point, give your plants some attention! Your greenies can only survive the winter if you ensure all the necessary conditions for their well-being.
Ways to Winterize Your Garden
Winterizing gardens is just a more “official” term for protecting your garden from the elements during the late fall and winter seasons. There are a few different ways to do this:
- Winterizing with cardboard. Cardboard can add plant protection to its list of many uses. Setting large layers of cardboard atop your garden can insulate it from freezing temperatures as well as prevent weeds from growing.
- Use your fall leaves. Begin saving your leaves once they start falling off to have ample amounts of leaves for later use.
- Plant cover crops. Cover crops like mustard grow very well in the winter and can also be useful in rejuvenating the soil of any lost nutrients.
These simple methods can help you turn your garden into a winter wonderland… Instead of a frozen graveyard. Brr!
Key Steps for Winterizing Garden
To properly keep your garden protected and ready for the upcoming spring season there are some key steps that need to be done before you can cross “tending to your garden” off the list for the winter. Here are the steps that should be followed:
- Weed the garden. Pull up dead plant material and weeds to clear your garden space. Dead plants readily harbor insect eggs and can be a source of bacteria or fungal infections that can harm your future plants, so be thorough with this step. Dispose of this plant material and any insect eggs you see.
- Amend your soil for the coming season. Compost should be added to replenish the nutrients lost during the growing season. Before adding your layer of compost, you should rake your soil to loosen it up to bring some of the nutrients that are still in the soil but trapped underneath the top, packed layer. Rake in the compost to distribute it evenly. If you have winter vegetables, like carrots, avoid raking the soil, as this can damage the crop.
- Add further protection in the form of mulch or leaves. You can save your raked leaves from your yard to add to the top of your garden for protection, or you can use mulch. This ground cover layer helps to insulate the soil from freezing temperatures and can protect any bulbs or roots you have planted. To be fully effective, you will want about 5 inches (12.7 cm) of leaf mulch or compost added to the top of your garden.
- Clean your tools and prepare for the season. Disinfect any tools used to dig up roots or dead plant matter so they’re ready to go the next time you use them. You will also want to do some standard winter prepping, such as disconnecting hoses or irrigation systems from your water if you frequently experience temperatures at or below freezing throughout the winter. Don’t forget to drain any leftover water from the hose, too.
Just a little care for your green pets can go a long way! Try to keep our tips in mind, and you will ensure their well-being for the cold season.
How to Winterize Garden Beds
Learning how to winterize garden beds is similar to winterizing a garden plot, though there are a few differences in what to do depending on your growing garden beds. Here’s how to winterize gardens that contain vegetables or flowers and some critical differences from general garden winterization:
- Avoid raking or tilling your garden if it has winter-growing vegetables. These are cold-hardy and should have had their soil amended and aerated before planting.
- For flowers, only fertilize once temperatures have started to drop. Adding fertilizer may encourage a growth spurt from your plant, potentially damaging it and taking away excess energy stores to get through the winter.
Now you know how to make your garden beds happy in winter!
It’s especially important to clean out diseased or dead plants from your vegetable garden beds to prevent fungal or bacterial diseases from getting to your new crop next season. Some pests can also survive in dead plant material over the winter, so if you’ve had pest or disease issues in the past, make sure to complete this step first.
- Remove dead plants. Take care to remove dead plants completely, especially if they were diseased. Remove any ornamentation you have or tools such as trellises and plant stakes.
- Add further protection in the form of mulch or leaves. You can save your raked leaves from your yard to add to the top of your garden for protection, or you can use mulch. Leaves can be run over with a lawnmower to produce a finer protective layer, often called “lead mold.” This can be further mixed with pine needles or straw to bulk it up a bit. The added benefit of a thick layer of mulch or leaves is that you don’t have to worry about weeding the garden early in the spring. This ground cover layer helps to insulate the soil from freezing temperatures and can protect any bulbs or roots you have planted. To be fully effective, you will want about 5 inches (12.7 cm) of leaf mulch or compost added to the top of your garden.
- Aerate the soil. Aerating the soil by tilling or shoveling will help with soil compaction, distributing the compost, and making the ground easier to work with in early spring. To properly till the soil, you will want to do more than surface-level aerating; getting down to 7-8 inches (17-20 cm) below the surface is needed. Doing this also can destroy any spores that may survive at the surface of the soil. Again, skip this step if you have winter vegetables in the ground to avoid damaging them.
- Add the protective layer. Finally, add mulch to the top of your garden bed at least 5 inches (12.7 cm) in thickness for effectiveness.
Vegetables can be a bit tricky to take care of. However, now you have all the knowledge you need to help them withstand the cold.
Some extra effort may be needed in winterizing your flower garden bed, particularly if you’ve got some bulbs that need to be pulled up, so avoid putting off this fall chore before it gets too late.
- Dig up those bulbs. You’ll want to remove any of your spring-blooming bulbs or tubers, such as tulips or dahlias, to protect them from freezing temperatures. These can be stored in a cool, dry, and dark place. Usually, storing the bulbs or tubers in paper bags works fine; the key here is not to let them get moist, which can cause them to rot over the winter season. Adding newspaper or peat moss can draw away any excess moisture, too. This can be done after the first frost when the plants are killed off, but the ground remains workable. Continue watering any perennials you have in your flower bed until the ground freezes.
- Clear out your flower bed. This step is unavoidable and for a good reason! All dead plant material should be removed from the garden bed. Annuals can be removed from the roots and disposed of or used for compost (as long as they do not have any diseases.) For hardy perennials, there’s much less effort that needs to be put forth in this step: simply deadhead the plant and clear the base of any old, dead leaves. Winter hardy plants are adapted to going dormant during the winter by using any sugar stores in their roots or rhizomes to sustain themselves through the winter months.
- Add your protective layer. Mulch, straw, grass clippings, leaves, or any combination of these can be added in a thick layer to protect your plants and get your flower bed ready for the new growing season. This mulch layer is best added once temperatures are consistently at or below freezing.
Flowers are delicate, so make sure you pay attention to these care requirements!
How to Winterize Landscaping
Winterizing your landscaping sounds like another garden chore, but you will give yourself many thanks that it wasn’t put off or avoided entirely. This is how it's done:
- Close out your irrigation system by disconnecting the water source. Water expands as it freezes and can burst pipes which can be a costly repair.
- Drain water features, such as bird baths, fountains, or sprinkler systems. Again, this protects from unintentional bursting or damage to your fixtures. Covers can also be used.
- Aerate your lawn or overseed it.
- Cover deciduous shrubs with plant covers or blankets.
- Bring in outdoor furniture and easily movable ornaments, or cover them. This will help protect your furniture from cracking or developing rust.
As you can see, it's not that hard to winterize your landscaping. Include these tips in your fall to-do list, and your future self will thank you!
How to Winterize Plants in Pots
Winterizing potted plants is much less involved than dealing with plants in the ground, so long as you have a warm place to move them to. This is what we recommend:
- Bring the potted plants indoors, if possible. Their watering needs will be lower during the winter, so keep this in mind when it comes to plant care.
- Move potted plants into a protected area, such as a garage or shed. You will have to check on them for water periodically, but they are at least out of the harsh elements.
- Store any potted bulbs or tubers as you would if they were planted in the ground if they cannot be moved indoors.
- If you have potted plants that are not easily moved, consider moving them closer to a plant set in the ground or garden bed.
A little warmth will make it easy for your potted plants to welcome the warm season happily!
We hope this guide will give you all the information you need to winterize your garden in the best way possible. The cold season will not threaten your lovely green pets anymore!