Preparing Your Garden for Winter

Preparing Your Garden for WinterYou may be used to winding down lawn care as winter approaches, but what about your garden? By doing a few things now, you can help your plants survive winter weather and get a head start on spring.

Don’t Stop Watering

Plants will still need water as they go dormant, especially if you’re having a dry fall. Keep watering until the first freeze.

Use Your Leaves

Instead of disposing of leaves, mulch and collect them with your mower. As long as you don’t have black walnut trees on your property, the resulting mulch is perfect for applying to garden beds. What’s wrong with black walnut leaves? They contain high levels of juglone, a chemical that is used by the tree to push out competing plants. Many ornamental and edible plants are susceptible to this poison.

Collected leaves can be used as mulch and ground cover, or they can be composted, creating rich organic material both directly and through the growth of leaf mold. This also breaks downs juglone, making black walnut mulch to use on all plants.

Remove Dead Vegetation

Cleaning out your garden doesn’t just make it look better, it also stops the spread of plant diseases that can survive the winter.

Prepare the Soil for Spring

Now is a great time to fertilize your soil for the next growing season. A soil test will tell you what nutrients need to be added to give your plants the nutrient support they need. If your soil needs lime, applying it now will give it time to dissolve and reduce acidity.

Plant Bulbs

Bulb plants, including tulips, daffodils, crocus, onion, and garlic need exposure to cold weather before they’ll come out of dormancy. Planting needs vary from plant to plant, but most varieties do best when evening temperatures are in the 40s. All bulb varieties do best if they’re planted in soil with good drainage.

Lay Down a Thin Layer of Mulch

Adding one to two inches of mulch over gardens and around trees will shield plants from the worst effects of winter. However, a thicker layer may insulate the underlying soil, keeping it from freezing. This can leave insects, weeds and other detrimental organisms alive come spring.

Protect Your Trees

If you have young, thin-barked trees, they’ll need some protecting from temperature fluctuations in the winter. As the surface heats up, water thaws in the bark and trunk, only to refreeze at night, splitting the bark. To keep this from happening, apply a paper wrap, covering the trunk from an inch below the soil surface. The ends can be taped together with some duct tape.

Evergreens are still active in winter, but they can dry out easily in the winter air. Keep them watered and consider applying an antidesiccant.

Protect Roses with Cones

Roses should be protected with a rose cone after the first hard freeze, the point at which temperatures dip below 20°F. Prune the plant just enough to fit into the cone. Filling the cone with leaf mold or straw will add extra protection if you live in a very cold climate or you’re growing a cold-sensitive variety like a hybrid tea. When temperatures rise in the spring, remove the cone when temperatures are above 30 degrees, then put it back over the plant at night.

Get Caught Up on Equipment Maintenance

Whether you’re looking to add a bagging system to your mower, or you have equipment that’s due for a yearly tune-up, visit Shank’s Lawn Equipment. We’re an authorized dealer for a wide range of consumer and commercial brands including everything from BCS to Yanmar. Visit our shop at 4900 Molly Pitcher Highway in Chambersburg, PA.

We also ship parts and accessories for all the brands we carry to any address in the U.S. or Canada. To order, visit us online at

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