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Prepping Your Garden for Winter

October 21, 2021

It’s time to prepare for hot chocolate, cozy hearths, and snuggling up in warm blankets with a loved one. Before you settle in for your long winter’s nap, there’s still a little bit of work to do to take care of your garden. Here are several tips to prep your garden for the next growing season, before the snow begins to fall.

Leave the Leaves

As the autumn leaves make their descent into your landscape beds, you may be tempted to rake and bag them up to dump on the curb. Don’t do it. Leaves are a natural—and free—mulch that can improve the quality of your garden soil, while also providing a pleasant habitat for many creatures that require leaves to make it through the winter. 

Now is also a good time to amend your soil for spring. Incorporating manure, compost, and other organic matter into your soil this fall gives the material time to break down and incorporate into your soil. Thank the fungi, earthworms, and other earthly laborers for working overtime now until spring, so your garden is rich and ready for planting come spring!

Clean Up Diseased Plants

Much like the leaves, what remains of your garden plants can stay in place until the spring, returning their rich nutrients to the soil, protecting against erosion, and providing shelter for overwintering pollinators. What you do want to pull out are any plants that seemed diseased but hadn’t been pulled out earlier in the growing season.

Remove Invasive Weeds

It’s important to dig up, not just cut back, invasive species so that you aren’t battling the same weeds next season. Many invasive species will also bounce back in your compost pile, so rather than toss them in, try smothering them under a tarp or tossing them in the garbage.

Split and Divide Bulbs

The fall is a great time to dig in and split up plants like hostas, tulips, daffodils, lilies, iris, crocuses and other bulbous flowers. Although these plants stopped showing growth above ground weeks ago, all of their energy has gone to multiplying underground. Dig these up, separate them, and transplant for enthusiastic new shoots in the spring.

Plant Spring Bulbs, Cover Crops, and Garlic

Speaking of bulbs, now is the time to plant—or replant—your spring bloomers (daffodils, tulips, and crocuses in particular). You can reduce soil erosion by planting cover crops in the fall as well, such as rye, vetch, or clover.

If you’re a big fan of garlic, put those cloves in the ground now. Those babies take a long time to grow!

Prune (Some) Perennials

Fall is a good time to clean up some species of perennials, but be selective and research which plants do best with a spring prune versus a fall one. The Handy Safety Knife is a convenient and efficient tool for just this sort of job. Flowering plants like roses, herbs, and perennial vegetables benefit from a fall prune, while plants like raspberries and blueberries do better with a spring prune, which prevents disease over winter. Resist the urge to trim back flowering plants like hydrangeas and other perennials, particularly those with significant seed heads, as these add character to your garden beds during winter, provide the plant with winter protection, and also provide nourishment for winter birds.


There’s still work to be done before closing the gate on your winter garden. Make sure you have the right tools handy! Order a pack of Handy Safety Knives now to work through the last of your garden projects and to be ready again come spring.

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