10 things you should do to winterize your garden

A tree hangs over a bench and white fence, all covered in snow.

Winter took its sweet time this year, which has given us a little extra time to finish the last of the garden chores before the ground freezes solid. Some of you may have already done your clean-up, but if you make sure you check off all of these items, you will make the gardening life much easier for you next spring.

1. REFLECT

Take a second to reflect about the past season before you forget. Make notes about what worked and what didn’t, crop rotations, new bugs you noticed, any new plantings you may have added to the landscape, etc.

2. TEST

Test soil—specifically for pH. The pH in soil determines the availability of nutrients to plants. Most New England soils are slightly acidic. Adding a slow-acting form of lime will help the soil move toward neutral by spring.

3. CLEAN

Removing dead vegetative material helps to “sanitize” your garden against pests and diseases that may survive through the winter. (Read more techniques you can use to prevent pests as winter approaches.)

4. CUT

Cut back perennials whose leaves may be diseased. You can bring diseased plants to a large composting facility (like Green Mountain Compost), but don’t compost them at home if you plan to use the compost on your garden. Backyard compost piles do not get hot enough to kill seeds and spores of diseased plants.

5. WRAP

Wrap trees and any new plantings that may be susceptible to sun scald and extra protection from winter conditions. Don’t forget tender shrubs as well. These can be wrapped in burlap or another breathable material.

6. RAKE

Rake leaves so they don’t suffocate the grass (check out this great article by Gardener’s Supply Company on how to put your leaves to work). If you don’t have time or space to deal with piles of leaves, bring them to your local recycling center.

7. MOW

If you are in an area that doesn’t yet have snow on the ground, consider cutting your grass just one more time, a bit lower to the ground. If the grass is left long over the winter it can get moldy when the snow melts. (Don’t forget to clean the mower and drain the fuel for winter storage!)

8. HYDRATE

Conifers and evergreens release moisture all year round, so giving them a really good soak before the ground freezes will help them throughout winter.

9. FEED THE BIRDS

Let’s not forget about our over-wintering feathered friends. Remember that well-fed birds through winter means more abundant bug-eating through spring and summer!  Birds will be more than happy to feed on any seeds and berries that remain in your garden. Putting out birdseed, suet, and a dish of warm water will make them even happier. 

10. PROTECT YOUR TOOLS

Just like your garden, garden tools and equipment need to be taken care of and stored properly for the winter. Drain hoses, clean dirt from tools to avoid rust, clean and store pots and trays.

Quick Tip: fill a 5 gallon pail ¾ full of sand, add a quart of vegetable oil so the sand is damp. Plunge dirty garden tools into the mixture a few times to clean and condition, then store the tools stuck in the sand until next use.

Bonus item: RELAX

With your garden in great shape for the icy season ahead, take a moment to relax before you get out your snow gear.

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