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Winter Garden Prep: Steps to Take to Keep Your Garden Healthy

Posted on January 24th, 2023

The winter season brings frost, cold winds, and low temperatures for several months. Regardless of your flora and landscaping, some amount of winter garden prep is essential to getting it ready for the spring season.

Ideally, you should be preparing your garden for the winter as late as the fall season. Here are some of the things you should do during winter garden prep to get the best results in the following season. 

Preparing Your Garden for Winter

Performing winter garden prep provides you with a number of advantages:

  • Organize your garden and get it ready to start working on it when spring arrives.
  • Preserve your tools and equipment to prevent winter damage. 
  • Ensure the health of your garden. 

These are some of the tips you can use even before winter starts. 

1. Clean and Organize Your Equipment and Tools

Some of your gardening equipment and tools may take on damage over the winter season. After you’ve performed the necessary winter garden preparations, make sure your tools are clean before storing them safely in your shed or garage. This includes your hose, plastic coverings, and other materials that won’t compost. 

Over the winter months, you likely won’t need your tools, so putting them away reduces the risk of damage. Come springtime, your equipment should be ready to use to get rid of dead plants and treat any ones that survived. 

2. Empty Your Irrigation Systems

Rinse away any dirt on your irrigation system before storing. For irrigation systems within the ground of your gardens, find the valve for your outdoor plumbing and make sure that the pipes are empty. The remaining water in your irrigation system can freeze up and defrost, which can cause damage to your plumbing and irrigation equipment. 

If your plants aren’t meant to survive your area’s climate, then it’s likely to die. However, for plants that can survive the winter season, try to schedule watering your plants when it’s warm. 

3. Turn Off Your Watering Systems

Automatic water systems may not be the best during the winter season as it’s best to time water your plants depending on temperature and weather conditions. Some tips for watering your garden in the winter:

  • Instead of an automatic sprinkler, use a hose-end sprinkler and turn on the water as necessary. 
  • Avoid leaving your garden hose connected to your outdoor faucet when not in use. Instead, remove it from the spigot, ensure that there’s no remaining water in the hose, and store it. 
  • Water your garden as necessary. Overwatering during the winter can create soggy environments that can lead to root rot. 
  • The best time to water your plants during the winter is in the morning or early afternoon when the temperature is above 40 degrees. By evening, the water should have already been absorbed and prevented freezing at night. 

4. Prep Your Walkways 

During the winter months, your walkways are likely to develop ice, which can lead to muddy or slippery walkways. To ensure the safety of your garden during the season, prep your walkways to increase friction and minimize accidents that can happen. 

While you could add non-slip mats or rocks, we recommend placing a thick layer of wood chips on your walkways. These are both effective and biodegradable solutions. Come spring, you can dispose of these chips by burying them in soil or placing them in your compost bin. These chips can help you create healthier and richer soil or fertilizer to use in your garden. 

5. Treat Your Soil

While most people add mulch or compost in the springtime, it’s highly recommended you do this in the late fall. This is to give your soil more time to absorb nutrients over the winter before it freezes. Before it gets too cold, place a few inches of your compost on the top of your beds.

If you find that your soil is prone to erosion or weeds, you may want to add an additional layer of mulch or straw over your compost. However, mulch can negatively affect how nutrients spread across your soil and how it affects your plants, so only add mulch if necessary. 

6. Know What to Harvest

Knowing what can or can’t survive the winter season can help you decide which plants should be harvested before it gets cold and what you can continue to grow over the next few months. Here’s a brief guide:

  • Tender vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkins, beans, and peas can’t survive frost and need to be harvested before it gets cold. 
  • Hardy vegetables like Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, spinach, and garlic can survive the winter seasons and can be left to grow. 
  • Semi-hardy vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, root crops, and potatoes can survive lighter temperatures and need some form of protection from extremely cold temperatures. This can involve having plastic covers or keeping them underground. 
  • Herbs can vary, with most perennials surviving typical winter temperatures. Herbs like parsley and basil will need either indoor storage or harvesting and starting over in the spring season. 

7. Winterize Your Flowers

Most perennial flowers can withstand the winter season. During the fall, water your flowers well and then minimize watering during the winter months. Over the winter, some flowers can be low maintenance when protected correctly, while others may eventually die. 

You can protect your flowers by ensuring their soil is rich in nutrients to keep them alive over the winter season. Remove any signs of dead or diseased areas, as they could spread to the rest of your flowers. 

8. Prepare Trees and Shrubs

Avoid pruning your trees and shrubs during the late fall and winter months. If you can, you should wait until next spring to have them pruned. Wounds in your trees and shrubs can take a long time to heal, so they may not heal on time before it gets cold. Pruning can also stimulate growth, which can easily die because younger growth isn’t woody enough to withstand low temperatures. 

Other ways to prepare trees and shrubs in your garden:

  • For trees and shrubs that shed their leaves in the winter, fence them off to protect them from heavy snow. 
  • Pests like rodents tend to seek shelter during the winter in fruit-bearing trees. To prevent this, take steps to pest-proof your trees. One effective method is by wrapping the lower part of the tree to prevent rodents from gnawing into it. 
  • Aside from preventing rodents, tree wraps can also help with the thawing process during the transition from winter to spring. This prevents water from freezing and melting to cause the bark to split.

9. Remove Weeds, Rot, and Dead Flora

Ideally, weeds should be removed in the late fall or early winter. During the winter season, certain types of weeds can continue to grow and spread. By spring, there can be a lot more weeds to pull out if they haven’t been handled before the winter season. 

Rotting and dead plants can slowly continue to decompose over the winter season. This can lead to a number of issues down the line, such as pests and infecting other healthy plants. You want your plants to be at their healthiest if they stand a chance at surviving the winter months, and keeping rot can spread diseases in your garden. 

10. General Garden Maintenance

Performing winter garden prep also involves simple garden maintenance steps to keep your garden tidy and ready for spring. Here are a few tips for garden maintenance in the fall:

  • Empty all outdoor water containers and store them indoors. During cold temperatures, water in these containers can expand and freeze, which can lead to cracking. Make sure these containers are completely dry before storing them upside down. 
  • Store any of your gas-powered garden equipment indoors. Check if you need to perform winter maintenance on any of your tools before using them in the spring. 
  • Mow your lawn late in the fall. Over the winter, grass left overgrown for too long can result in unhealthy brown patches during the spring. 
  • Try to minimize the number of fallen leaves and other organic plant matter in your garden before winter arrives. You can turn the leaves into mulch or add them to your compost bin. 
  • Make sure your compost bin is covered before winter arrives. Place a plastic cover on top or a thick layer of straw. 

Leave Your Winter Garden Prep to Turf Unlimited

Taking steps to prepare your garden for the winter can ensure the health and beauty of your plants throughout the cold seasons. However, a diverse garden can have plants, flowers, and trees with special needs, and that means taking the time to ensure your garden is ready before, during, and after the winter season. 

At Turf Unlimited, we are a locally-owned team that has been operating for over two decades. Our professional lawn care services ensure that your gardens, lawns, and other outdoor green spaces are healthy throughout the year. 

Get in touch with us today to request a quote on our lawn care services. 


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