Now that the hot weather is over, fall is truly settling in. As the leaves start to fall in earnest and the first frost looms on the horizon, it’s time to start thinking about winterizing your garden. The changing of the seasons can be especially daunting for beginner gardeners. If it’s your first winter, it can be hard to know where to start or how to begin preparing for the colder months.
The following basic steps can take the stress out of your winter garden preparations.
With any project, gardening or otherwise, you should start off by getting rid of any junk that’s in your way, so you can focus on prepping healthy plants and clearing soil for the coming months.
Start by removing anything that is dead or dying. Pull diseased plants and gather debris like branches and dead-heading plants. Next, pull your annuals — roots and all. One-year-only plants shouldn’t take up space and attention. Cleaning up will help narrow your focus, protect your healthy plants and give you a fresh slate for spring. For any diseased plants, throw in the trash. But all other plants or brush can be added to your compost pile.
Address the Plumbing and Water
Once you’re done watering or irrigating for the year, it’s time to winterize your water system. To avoid frozen pipes, drain water from hoses and lines. Turn off the water to your outdoor faucets and store drained hoses in a shed or basement until spring.
If you have a sprinkler or irrigation system, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines or obtain specific instructions from a trusted tutorial.
Mulching your garden beds helps stabilize the ground temperature. A thick layer of mulch isn’t meant to keep the ground from freezing. It ensures the ground stays frozen, rather than thawing and refreezing as temperatures fluctuate.
If you have lots of downed leaves in your yard during autumn, consider mulching them to create or supplement your mulch. For more delicate items like bulbs, consider adding evergreen branches for increased protection.
Place a layer of fertilizer in the fall to ensure existing plants receive the nutrients they need to make it through winter and come out strong in the spring. Not all fertilizers are the same. They all contain nitrogen, phosphate and potash, but your specific needs will determine the optimal ratio of ingredients in your fertilizer. Choose a product that will meet your needs for winterizing your lawn and garden.
Plan ahead for next year as your amount of daily garden work dwindles. Planting bulbs for spring is one of the most common pre-winter tasks. There are plenty of bulbs you can plant now that will give your garden a variety of blooms all year round. Be careful not to leave standing water in barrels or bird baths, water is breeding ground for mosquitoes so by eliminating standing water you can stop mosquitoes come spring.
If you want to expand your gardening repertoire, consider using the winter to start on or expand your composting project. You could start your first hot compost pile, build or buy a permanent compost bin. Click here to learn how to compost your fall leaves.
Remember to check out your local nurseries and garden shops for advice on plants and answers to Pennsylvania-specific questions. Local experts are a great resource for understanding the specific needs of the region.