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Easy steps to winterize your home garden
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Keep Liberty Beautiful is a county program that promotes our environment.

I have been asked what to do with a garden during the winter.  I found some information online that stated you should do something to keep your garden ready and enriched for planting again.  You also have to keep in mind that you have already spent a lot of time, energy, and money on your garden.  Hence, it’s essential to protect your investment.

In the online article ‘7 Simple Steps To Winterize Your Garden, Give your growing space a little TLC now so it will really thrive come springtime.” Stacy Tornio identifies the most essential, must-do tasks to winterizing the garden.  The article pointed out that you can complete all of the functions needed in just a couple of hours.  Only a few tools and materials are required to start the winterizing process:

Step 1: Clean out all the weeds.

It’s not a fun job, but it’s got to be done—along with dead leaves, plant parts, and any invasive or diseased plants. It’s essential to get out pretty much anything you wouldn’t want in your garden during the growing season. If you suspect a plant might be infected because it was infested with bugs, didn’t grow well, or had odd coloring, now’s the time for it to go. You don’t want those plants to continue invading your garden or spreading their ill will throughout the area. 

Some gardeners will also take the time to completely clear their veggie plants and cut back their perennials. This step is really a matter of preference. Still, many gardeners like to leave their perennials be for added winter interest. Coneflowers and ornamental grasses look beautiful covered in the snow, plus they add extra food for the birds.

Step 2: Protect your new garden beds.

Did you add a new flower garden this season? When you’re trying to establish plants—mostly perennials—the first season is often the most important. As the plants are getting established, it doesn’t hurt to add a little extra coverage over the winter. Try a garden cloche, and drape it over your entire garden area. 

Keep in mind that this is something you’ll mostly do for new perennial beds, not veggie gardens or already established flower beds. Veggies gardens don’t really need winter protection. However, if you want to try to continue growing veggies like lettuce or radishes, install a cold frame to continue growing even in winter.

Step 3: Plant your bulbs.

This doesn’t fall in the “clean-up” category, but it’s still an essential list item to get done before the ground freezes. Plus, there’s a reason it’s on the winter list. Many times, gardeners have trouble planting bulbs. Either the ground is too hard, or they have clay soil, and they never seem to get the hole deep enough. You need it several inches deep, in most cases, so it has adequate protection over winter and is ready to bloom in spring.

Step 4: Give your plants one last drink, and then turn the water off.

Water is a plant’s best friend, and when you’re trying to establish new ones, it’s imperative! Before you turn off your water for the winter—no one wants busted pipes outdoors—you’ll want to give your garden a nice long drink. This is especially the case for new trees, shrubs, and perennials. You don’t have to worry about keeping the watering up through frost time. You can still give your plants a little extra help when you remember to do a final watering of the season. For timing, try to do this about a week or two before the ground freezes in your area.

When you turn your water off, be sure to empty and store hoses, rain barrels, and other gardening supplies, so they don’t crack from the cold. 

Step 5: Put a winter jacket on your trees, shrubs, and rosebushes.

A winter jacket for plants? Absolutely! When you’re trying to establish these trees, shrubs, and rosebushes in your backyard or garden, they often need extra protection from those harsh winter winds.  You can make your own using garbage bags, burlap, landscape fabric, or large cardboard boxes, or you can buy them.  You just want to ensure you secure them well, so they don’t blow off on the most frigid days.

Step 6: Dig up your tender plants.

Suppose you have cannas, dahlias, elephant ear, or other sensitive bulbs and tubers like these. In that case, you need to dig them up before winter. You’ll want to place them in a dark, cool location like the basement—but research the best storage recommendation based on the plant. Then in spring, you can replant them for another season. If you don’t do this, you risk losing the plant altogether. Since many of these can be pricey, you don’t want to risk it over the winter.

Also, many gardeners will move their favorite annuals like begonias or geraniums indoors this time of year. Whether they make it through to spring is a bit of a gamble, but it doesn’t hurt to try if you have space. Sure, you expect to buy annuals new every year. But if you can keep them going during winter—even better.

Step 7: Add some extra mulch.

Mulch feels like a spring task, but there’s a reason to put it on the fall list, too. Having good mulch in your garden is one of the single best things you can do as a gardener. It adds organic matter to the soil, naturally deters weeds, and further insulates and protects the plants.

If you have areas of your garden looking a little bare, add mulch before those cold temperatures hit. Even if you don’t like to place a jacket or cloche your plants, this can help so much because it will protect the roots and the area of the most vulnerable plants. On a budget? Instead of wood chips, try using your leaves as mulch.

I hope these tips help you have a wonderful garden. 

If you want more information, contact Keep Liberty Beautiful at or check our information on  

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