Properly winterizing your garden is the ultimate in delayed gratification. As the chill sets in and you start cozying up for the holidays, spring may be the last thing on your mind. But putting some time into your garden this fall will mean only healthier, brighter plants as the snow melts and your heart starts singing with the birds.
The level of winterizing your garden needs will depend on your gardening zone (see the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to learn more). Florida gardeners, for example, will find that just about everything lasts through the winter, while those in cold climates like the Upper Midwest will need to focus on insulating and protecting their soil and plants. For those who live in colder zones, winterizing can usually begin after the first hard freeze in the fall.
Removing dead plant matter and cutting back perennials now will not only make your garden look tidy and ready for that fresh blanket of snow; it will give you more time to focus on new growth in the spring.
Sure, eating Halloween candy may be a lot more fun, but pulling weeds is one of the best ways you can spend a fall afternoon. Weeds not only look unbecoming in your garden, but they can harbor pests and disease over the winter. Preempt spring problems by getting to the literal root of them now.
After removing weeds and dead plant material, rake the soil to aerate it. By allowing the soil to breathe, rather than letting it continue to get packed down, you release more nutrients into your planting beds.
Protect your garden and feed it, too, by applying a layer of organic matter to the soil. Several inches of compost, leaf mold, pine needles, or leaf mulch will provide a nutrient-rich blanket to the ground, protecting it from harsh winter temperatures, winds, and fluctuations.
Plants aren’t the only garden feature that can take a beating in the winter. Take stock of your yard before the temperatures go into freefall. What needs to be winterized, covered, or even removed for the season? Consider fountains, ponds, statuary, furniture, play equipment, and other items you want to be in good working order come spring.
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