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Winter’s Chill Means Even More Work In the Garden

By Christa Terry

winterizing a garden

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

4 Responses to “Winter’s Chill Means Even More Work In the Garden”

  1. Pete Says:

    if your readers are looking for more information on USDA plant hardiness zones, there is a detailed, interactive USDA plant hardiness zone map at

  2. The Leopard Says:

    No kidding – that’s an understatement! Prepping a garden for winter can ebe almost as much work as planting in the sprtingtime!

  3. Gary Says:

    Before winter sets in, your readers with late season herb and vegetable gardens may well find that they will grow more than they can use, preserve or give to friends.

    They may want to visit – a site that helps diminish hunger by enabling backyard gardeners to share their crops with neighborhood food pantries.

    The site is free both for the food pantries and the gardeners using it.

    More than 970 food pantries nationwide are already on it and more are signing up daily.

    It includes preferred delivery times, driving instructions to the pantry as well as (in many cases) information about store bought items also needed by the pantry (for after the growing season). enables people to help their community by reaching into their back yard instead of their back pocket.

    Lastly, if your reader’s community has a food pantry, they should make sure the pantry registers on Its free.

  4. Never teh Bride Says:

    Wow, thanks for the link, Gary. I wish I’d known about it mid-summer when my tomato plants went insane. Not much going on in my garden now because we planted our squash too early, but I’ll pass the word onto friends and family.

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