10 Easy Ways to Prep Your Garden for Winter


Your garden provided beauty and sustenance throughout the season, but now it's time to close up shop until next year. Or is it? Here's what you need to know about extending the life of your garden and preparing it for next year. (Related: 8 Cheap Ways to Deter Garden Pests)

1. Enjoy the Harvest

There are plenty of crops you can plant at the end of summer. Try extending your garden enjoyment with radishes, beets, lettuce, and other vegetables that do well in cooler weather. If you're gardening for the first time this fall, you'll notice fewer pests and other issues than you deal with in the spring and summer months. Missed this season's planting dates? Remember this tip for the future.

2. Clear It Out

At the end of each season (when frost hits), we take time to remove all the leftover plants in our raised bed and other garden spaces. We toss the old plants into our compost heap to create super rich soil for next year. Don't skip this step. Mary Lou Shaw at Mother Earth News explains that clearing out "prevents the build-up of disease and harmful insects."

3. Prepare the Soil

Now is the time to beef up your soil's quality. You can add compost, peat, leaves, and even well-rotted manure to your empty garden. Carl Wilson and Mary Hartman at the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension explain that "Soil microorganisms and beneficial soil insects will help incorporate these materials into the soil before the ground freezes and in the spring after it thaws." A robust garden starts with quality soil.

4. Keep Hydrating

According to horticulturist Sharon Yielsa, you should keep watering your perennials until the ground freezes. The extra hydration will help maintain a healthy root system and help the plant thrive next spring. The best way to water is by soaking plants just once a week versus giving them a light watering every day.

5. Cut It Back

Some perennials should be cut back before winter, so get your garden scissors and check out a few guidelines from the National Gardening Association offers. Plants like heliopsis, purple coneflower, and black-eyed Susans are actually beneficial to birds, so don't cut them. Plants like bearded iris, peonies, bee balm, and garden phlox act like safe havens for insects and disease spores, so clip them clean.

6. Cover It Up

My neighbor is big into her roses. We have our own bush, so she explained to us that we need to cover it during the cold weather. Hardy plants like roses, hydrangeas, transplanted evergreens, and more can benefit from a burlap or styrofoam cover. Tender plants get some added protection with mulch, shredded leaves, and even pine boughs.

7. Kill Weeds

If you have an area that's just covered in nasty weeds — cover it up with black plastic. You'll keep this sheet in place over the entire winter. This action will keep the seeds from sprouting so you can get a fresh start in the spring.

8. Use the Space

You can use your garden as a root cellar of sorts when you're not growing stuff in it. Of course, your root crops (beets, carrots, parsnips) are what will do best with this method. Just dig them up, cut their tops down to one inch, then dig a trench that's six to 10 inches deep and 18 to 24 inches wide. Replant those crops at the bottom of the trench and cover with soil.

9. Think Ahead

The fall season is a great time to plant bulbs for flowers like daffodils, tulips, and crocuses or plants like onions and garlic. Plant bulbs around the time of the first frost. You'll want to loosen the soil and add any compost before planting the bulbs with the pointy end up. Big bulbs should be set about eight inches deep. Smaller ones should go in a shallow five inches.

10. Make Plans

While your gardening efforts are still fresh in your mind, make a plan for next year. What plants did well? Which ones didn't so much? Did you deal with certain garden pests more than others? Ask yourself a bunch of questions to find your strengths and weaknesses. Draft up a few dreams, too. Then when the weather is chilly and the snow piles high, try reading books like Square Foot Gardening to learn how to maximize space for next year's crops.

How do you prepare your garden for winter?

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Guest's picture

This was really helpful Ashley! I tried to continue the garden plots I started last summer over this past spring, but unfortunately I didn't do enough to prep my garden last year and the work I had to do this spring and summer was so overwhelming that I wasn't really able to plant anything new. This time, I am using the time I have now in the fall to get ready.