Your garden doesn’t have to stop being a garden during winter. Homes don’t cease being homes even after a winterizing treatment, after all. You can keep your garden intact and blooming in time for spring, but roll up those sleeves, because it involves work and determination.
Prepare a list and a schedule
First off, you have to map out a winter gardening itinerary to follow. You need to know your area’s frost dates, for starters. The USDA site has a plant hardiness zone map you can use as reference to know which plants are best at surviving cold weather, and which need special care. You can also consult a local gardening almanac according to city, state, or zip code. These give specific tips on what to grow where, and other resources. Check out our Gardening Guide for more information and tips to gardening and landscaping by climate.
You can then schedule the chores, tasks, and other activities that need to be done in your winterizing list. Small acts like rolling up garden hoses, putting plastic containers away to prevent from cracking, and draining the fuel tank of lawn mowers will save you a lot of heartache (and money) when spring rolls around.
Trim, clean, and put away
Before it gets too cold to do outdoor activities, clean up garden debris as best as you can in milder weather. Leaves, dead stalks, decaying foliage, and other garden refuse can become a breeding ground for pests. Rake fallen leaves, trim overgrown shrubbery, and compost where you can.
Don’t forget to put away garden accessories like buckets, hoses, rakes, and others - keep them in a shed so they won’t freeze or rust. Remember to cover your compost with a tarp or a thick layer of hay so that it won’t get soggy with snow. Give your garden a general cleaning so that it still looks presentable after all the snow melts.
Get rid of weeds
Don’t neglect weeding pre-winter. Many can survive the cold and wreak havoc on your plants. Carefully remove those with seed heads so that none will come out. Even a tiny portion of seeds can germinate fast and invade your garden in a matter of weeks. Make sure the weeds are nowhere in contact with your other plants and soil. Put them in a covered garbage bin where they belong.
Keep shrubs snug and warm
Plants can experience chill, too. You can wrap shrubs with a burlap sack or a thick fabric to keep them from freezing and suffering windburn. Never use plastic because it doesn’t breathe, and can overheat young plants. When the weather becomes warmer, remove the wrapping right away.
Mulch, mulch, mulch
Plants need extra warmth during winter, and mulching will act as a protective blanket for them. New plants that have not taken root yet especially need mulching. It will keep moisture where it needs, and prevent weeds from taking hold, while keeping soil temperature even for tender plants. Check in mid-January to early February if the mulch has moved from heavy wind and rain, and reapply as needed.