5 Key Steps to Get Your Garden Ready for Winter's Chill

Wet & Forget
by Wet & Forget
Winter will be here before you know it, and the cold weather can sink into your garden's "bones" just as much as it sinks into yours. If your garden isn't ready for winter's chill, you will see the consequences next spring in the form of unhealthy plants with puny blooms or no blooms at all, or even plants that don't make it through the cold weather.
Step 1: Trim and Cut Back
he first step to prepare your garden for winter is to cut back certain plants. There is more than one reason for this: some plants, such as bamboo and some ornamental grasses, die out over the winter and look unattractive in the spring. The dead growth can also cause crowding when the new growth is ready to come in next spring.
Step 2: Clean up
The next step is to remove dead plant debris from your vegetable garden. Just like garlic, other vegetables are more vulnerable to disease if you leave the dead plant parts on top of the vegetable plot over the winter; this is especially true for tomatoes, which are prone to a number of diseases (you should also rotate tomatoes at least every couple of years).
Step 3: Add Compost
Now that you've removed the dead plant debris, add a layer of compost to your vegetable garden to make sure the soil will be good and fertile for next spring. Adding 1 pound per 1,000 square feet of ammonium sulfate to your garden (20-0-0) in the fall is another way to enrich the soil.
Step 4: Mulch your Bulbs
As the weather becomes colder, add a layer of mulch above your perennial bulbs such as flowers and garlic. This will help the bulbs stay nice and cold so that they can remain dormant during the winter, instead of "waking up" during temperature fluctuations and potentially sustaining damage.
5: Bring in Delicate Pots
Lastly, don't forget all of the containers for your outdoor potted plants. If you live in a cooler climate, the freeze-thaw cycle can crack terra cotta pots and even certain plastic pots. Bring them inside for the winter.
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
  1 question
  • Eroque022810 Eroque022810 on Sep 01, 2016
    Must I wait until stem brown all the way down ? I know nothing about plants just moved in and have dead Shasta daisies that look horrible and other flowered plants like day lilies black Eyed susans. I want to clean up now. Do you prune bleeding hearts. Help?

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  • Teresa Teresa on Sep 03, 2017
    If you live in zone 4 or colder like I do, NEVER cut back your gardens in the fall. The dead leaves and stems help cathc snow which insulates the plant form frigid temperatures. I live in zone 2, and allowing my dead plants to stay until spring clean up allows me to grow plants that are hardy to zone 4 and sometimes 5.

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    • Teresa Teresa on Sep 05, 2017
      I think it is more that I love where it drops to -40, often -50 with the windchill..my plants are also mulched but cleanup begins in the spring when it is still cold but not frigid .

  • Kathy Kathy on Jan 09, 2023

    I read an article from an expert gardener and he waits until Spring to cut back everything. It gives birds seeds during winter and it's good for plants too.