How To Prep Your Garden for the Cold Months Ahead: 5 Tips From a Landscape Designer

Over the past year, many of you put your heart and soul into your garden. Millions of people took up gardening during the COVID-19 pandemic, and according to the National Gardening Association, 67% are growing or planning to grow vegetables, herbs, and fruits in 2021.

Any gardener knows that plants depend on sunlight to grow, and shorter days and freezing temperatures can do all kinds of damage. So with autumn and winter just on the horizon, you may be wondering how to protect your plants for the cooler months ahead.

“While it can sometimes be a big undertaking, when homeowners take additional steps to prepare their gardens for the winter season, their efforts will show in the health of their plants come springtime,” says Garrett Magee, one of the founders of landscape design firm Manscapers.

Below, Magee offers his top tips for green thumbs to keep their garden in peak shape through the fall and the depths of winter. If you’re concerned about how your fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers will fare, read on.

1. Take stock of your garden in the fall

Fall is a good time to look at what has done well this year in your garden and what hasn’t, and where you might want to make changes for the next planting season.

“Most outdoor plants are fine to keep outside all winter and will return next spring, but annuals need to be cleared out of the garden and replanted with new ones the next spring,” says Magee.

At the end of the season when your perennials are done blooming, he recommends trimming them back and making sure to note where they are so you can recognize them when they begin sprouting next season.

“Doing this small chore will be rewarding in the spring when your garden comes alive, and the plants look better than ever,” he says.

2. Tune in to the weather in your area

Prepping your garden for cooler months will depend on where you live.

“If you live in a cold winter climate like me in New York, you’ll want to make sure all your gardens and planters get a good layer of mulch to insulate your plants. Think of it as putting a blanket around your plants to keep them warm through the winter months,” says Magee.

He says to ensure mulch doesn’t touch the trunks of trees and shrubs to prevent rot and other diseases.

“For ceramic and terra-cotta pots, you want to make sure you store them in a cool, dry place where they won’t freeze and crack,” he says.

3. Clean it up

An unkempt garden is not where you want to start. Take some time to prepare your outdoor plants for the cooler months by tidying up.

“Remove any invasive weeds, trim any dead leaves, and dispose of diseased or pest-ridden plants and plants that have diseases or bugs. This will help reduce problems for next planting season,” says Magee.

4. Plant cold-hardy vegetables that can survive frost

Make sure to plant some vegetables in the fall that tolerate cold. Fortunately, that includes some you might want to throw into your daily smoothie.

“I recommend planting and harvesting plants like beets, kale, parsnips, and spinach later in the season, because they are tolerant to a light frost,” says Magee.

Beets happen to be his favorite superfood; they should be planted in the fall and harvested about seven to eight weeks later. Even before you harvest the bulbous roots, the leaves can be used in stir-fries or even, when young and tender, salads.

5. Bring your herbs inside for the winter

Birds fly south for the winter, groundhogs hibernate, and some plants, such as herbs, thrive better indoors.

“If you want to access your edible garden during the winter, bring it inside. While some herbs like basil will survive the first frost, they generally don’t do well in cold temperatures,” says Magee.

Plus, you’ll want your herbs at arm’s reach as you prepare those hearty stews. Magee likes to repot his herbs into plastic containers ahead of the colder months “and keep them near the kitchen so I can easily reach for them while I’m cooking.”


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