Thought you were done, eh? Not quite! When things get chilly, it’s time to put your garden to bed for the winter. What, you didn’t know that gardens hibernate just like squirrels and bears? I kid. Winterizing a garden is less about cleaning dead things up and more about prepping your flower beds and vegetable rows for the growing season that’s months and months (and months and months if you live where I do) away.
The specifics will vary by region and by preference, since when you winterize will likely be determined by your climate and what you like to plant in your garden, but there are certain rules anyone can follow when winterizing a garden. First, if you have a bit of yard to your name, don’t expect to be able to do everything in one day or even in one weekend. Schedule plenty of time so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Second, when you’re done dealing with the flora, remember to put things like planters and hoses in a shed or basement.
So what does winterizing a garden actually entail? Here’s a basic to-do list for those planning to put their gardens to bed in the near future.
- Pull weeds, dig up the roots of invasive plants, and pick up any debris like twigs, if you haven’t been doing these things regularly. Raking isn’t a bad idea, either. This gives you a blank slate to start with.
- Cut down the previous season’s annual plants, like flowers and veggies, then trim your perennials. If any of your perennials need to be divided, now’s the time to do so.
- Dig up any bulbs unlikely to survive the cold. Cannas, tuberous begonias, gladiolus, dahlias, and quite a few other summer-blooming bulbs cannot make it through the winter in USDA Zone 9 and colder. Then plant hardy spring-blooming bulbs.
- Prior to the first ground freeze, water and apply antidesiccants to any vulnerable evergreens.
- Apply a winter mulch to perennials, evergreens, and newly planted trees if you live somewhere where winter temperatures generally fall below minus 10 degrees F. These can also be covered in burlap to avoid common wintertime damage.
- If you have a vegetable garden, cover it with weighted lack plastic to discourage early weed growth or unwanted seeding in the springtime.
- Water all remaining plants and apply fertilizer as necessary, but consider that fertilizing later in the season can spark new growth that simply dies when temperatures drop.
Photo by Johan van Beuzekom