Winter garden maintenance is important to prepare your yard for the coming growing season. You will be rewarded with a beautiful, healthy garden in spring.
To begin with, start by cleaning up your garden and pruning any weeds. You can also deadhead any roses and herbaceous perennials that are in bloom.
1. Clean Up
If you’ve had a snowstorm, it’s important to clean up your garden. It helps remove any debris that might have been deposited during the storm and prepares the soil for growth in spring.
Take care to clear away dead leaves and other debris, and remove any mulches from your garden beds. This will allow you to add organic matter such as well-rotted manure, compost or bark chips.
It’s also time to inspect your trees and shrubs for winter damage, and prune bare or dead branches. This is especially important for fruit-tree pruning and for summer-blooming trees and shrubs, like butterfly bush and potentilla.
Mulching protects garden soil from erosion, regulates temperature and suppresses weeds. It also improves soil fertility and micronutrient availability for your plants.
For mulch, you can use a variety of organic materials, such as shredded leaves, ground bark and evergreen boughs. Straw and hay are also good choices.
A layer of mulch prevents evaporation from snow and rain. It also reduces compaction by putting a cushion between the weight of the snow and plant roots.
Mulching is a great way to prepare your garden for winter, and it’s also a time-saving chore in spring! But be careful when sourcing your mulch.
Watering your garden is important year-round, but winter is an especially critical time to hydrate. Cold-hardy plants like trees, shrubs and perennials need moisture to ward off the cold, dry weather that can kill them.
The key is to know how much water your garden needs and when it’s best to water. The amount of water you give your plants depends on the season and how much rain or snow your area receives.
During the winter, water early in the day when the soil is warm, and avoid watering near freezing temperatures. This can help protect the roots of your vegetables from damage due to frost.
4. Protect Trees and Shrubs
The winter months are tough on most garden plants, especially trees and shrubs. Sudden frigid blasts, hit-or-miss moisture, and hungry critters can all make plants wilt and even die.
Evergreens are especially prone to dry winter winds, so erect a windbreak to protect these trees in exposed areas. Shrubs, too, can be wrapped in burlap to prevent needles from breaking off and drying out.
Tree trunks and young trees are also susceptible to sunscald, which occurs when dark bark heats up in the winter and cools off quickly. Paint the south side of the trunk with diluted white interior latex paint or apply paper tree wrap to prevent this damage.
Some evergreens, such as white pines, are also at risk from road salt sprayed by passing snowplows. For these trees, consider replanting with a different variety that tolerates this damaging salt.
5. Check for Pests
While most gardeners, plants, and pests go dormant during winter, there are a few that remain active and will do damage to your yard or garden. The best thing you can do is take action to prevent these winter bugs and wildlife from harming what you’ve worked so hard to cultivate through the year.
Aphids, caterpillars, grubs, and snails can all be devastating to your vegetables. These leaf-eating pests chew holes in your greens and may also transmit diseases from weeds to your crops, which can lead to serious damage and even death.
Moles and voles are other common winter pests that cause extensive tunnel networks. These herbivores dislodge vegetation from the roots and trunks of plants, sometimes causing severe damage to trees and shrubs.