4 Steps to Prepare Your Garden for Winter

4 Steps to Prepare Your Garden for Winter
4 Steps to Prepare Your Garden for Winter
September 15, 2012 Russ Busa

If there’s one more thing left on a gardener’s summer to-do list after Labor Day, it’s to prepare your garden for winter and the onset of cooler temperatures. The best way to ensure a fruitful garden in the spring is to take the proper steps now to winterize your garden and make sure it can withstand the upcoming weather.

Step 1: Clean up

The first step to preparing any garden for the cooler weather is to clear out the old and make room for the new. This is a vital step, because old plant remains serve as a feeding ground for future pests.
If your garden contains perennials, you’ll simply want to cut back the dead foliage, leaving the plant to stand a few inches tall. That way the roots will still stay strong for next year. However, when dealing with your annuals or seasonal vegetables, you’ll want to make sure to remove them completely, roots and all. You will also want to remove any weeds or yard debris. You’re aiming for completely clean soil.

Step 2: Prepare the soil

What you do to your soil next can have a big impact on how well your spring garden grows. It’s best to give your soil the ingredients it needs to stay viable come springtime. This should be done by adding organic ingredients into the soil. Manure and homemade compost are great options that won’t fully immerse into your soil until wintertime, making it prime real estate for your spring plants to bloom.
Next, add a decently thick layer of mulch to your garden. This will not only seal in the rich ingredients you’ve added to your soil, but it will also protect your garden from any unwanted debris or pests getting back in. Note: If you live somewhere that will freeze during the winter, add the mulch after the season’s first freeze to keep the soil temperature more even.

Step 3: Take care of container plants

After your main garden is taken care of, tend to any plants you many have in containers. If left untouched, the cooler temperatures may cause the containers to crack or freeze, damaging and potentially killing your beauties. To prevent this, move the containers indoors if possible. If you are limited on space, a covered back porch, basement or garage will suffice. However, since these areas do still get cold, you need to wrap the containers in blankets or multiple layers of plastic wrap to ensure they will stay at the right temperature. You don’t want the plants to grow too much in these conditions, so skip the fertilizer and use only minimal water until springtime is near.

Step 4: Don’t forget your tools

Your garden is not the only thing that needs special attention before the cold weather hits; your tools need some love and attention too. You should thoroughly clean any garden tools that you have. Next, apply a treatment to the metal to prevent it from rusting. Linseed oil is a great metal and wood protector that will keep your tools looking new, year-after-year. Don’t forget to completely drain your garden hose and attach both ends together. You don’t want any unwelcome guests surprising you next spring.
This is also a great time to go through your chemicals to make sure that they will still be useable come next spring. There is no point in storing useless chemicals all winter. Additionally, if you have any gas-powered equipment, add a fuel stabilizer and run it dry. Since it is impossible to completely remove all of the gas, the stabilizer will help prevent damage to the carburetor as it sits idle.

Remember, the fall is not the end of this year’s gardening season, but the beginning of next year’s. If you follow these steps now, your garden is sure to be the envy of your neighbors when spring rolls around.