The cold winter weather is fast approaching. For gardening enthusiasts, this means that it will soon be time to put your hoses and tools away until the growing season returns next spring. However, your gardening tasks aren’t quite done for the year yet, as you still need to ensure that your beds and plants are prepared to handle the freezing temperatures. Preparing your garden in the autumn also helps to ensure healthy, more vigorous growth next year. With this in mind, we’ll now take a look at four simple steps to ensure your garden is ready for winter.
1. Shield Perennials and Bulbs from the Cold
Annual plants can simply be pulled up and tossed in the compost pile when they die. However, any perennials and bulb plants may need a bit of extra protection to keep them alive through the winter.
Before the first frost arrives, it is best to start cutting back on how much you water any perennials to help harden them up and better prepare them for winter. Once the plants have finished for the year, it is also a good idea to trim back the stems so that they’re only about 6 to 8 inches high. Doing so will help to shield the plants from the cold and also allow them to grow more vigorously when the warm weather arrives.
Any bulb plants that flower in the early spring can usually be left in the ground throughout the winter. However, any bulbs that flower in the summer should be dug up and stored inside to prevent them from being damaged by the cold. This includes freesias, elephant’s ears, cannas, calla lilies and other later-blooming flowers.
After gently digging the bulbs up, shake off any excess dirt and then allow the bulbs to dry in the sun for approximately a week. Finally, store them in a cardboard box surrounded by plenty of peat, sawdust or newspaper so that none of the bulbs are touching.
2. Consider Some Last-Minute Planting
Autumn is the ideal time to plant any early-flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodil, iris, etc. In fact, the only way to ensure that your bulb flowers will bloom in the spring is to plant them in the early autumn before the ground freezes. Most early-flowering bulbs need to freeze during the winter in order to grow in the autumn. This means they need to either be in the ground or stored in a freezer.
Many varieties of perennials also work well when planted in the winter due to the drier ground and lower temperatures. If you’re growing a vegetable garden, planting onions and garlic during the autumn allows them to be harvested several months earlier the following year.
3. Compost Garden and Flower Beds
Adding compost during the autumn helps to provide additional nutrients to your plants the next spring. Composting during the autumn allows the nutrients more time to break down and infiltrate deeper into the soil, which in turn provides better growing conditions the following season. Generally speaking, you should spread a thin layer of compost over the top of the soil, and then work the compost deeper into the ground sometime around or just after the first freeze.
4. Use Mulch to Protect Your Top Soil
Another good idea is to spread a layer of mulch or dead leaves before the first freeze. Adding a layer of mulch on top of your beds helps to protect any plants left in the ground from the freezing temperatures. In addition, the mulch will also help to prevent rain, snow and ice from washing away your top soil or leeching out its nutrients. However, the layer of mulch shouldn’t be much more than three to four inches thick as otherwise it could choke out your plants and make it harder for them to bloom in the spring.
If you are lucky enough to live in a fairly warm climate with milder winters, you probably won’t have to do much to prepare your garden. However, if you live in a place where it frequently freezes or where there is a lot of winter precipitation, it is essential that you take the proper steps to your garden. Winter can wreak havoc on your garden if you’re not careful, so it’s important that you do what you can to protect it.
Victoria is a home working mom and the author of How Daily, a blog that shares her taste and experience on food, recipes, home & garden projects. These are ranging widely from quick cleaning of household appliance to planting and caring for garden favorites.