How to Prepare Your Lawn and Garden for Winter
It may be depressing to think about it, but winter is creeping up. That means it's time to prepare your lawn and garden for the cold season. Taking a few steps to prepare for the first frost and the cold months to follow can lead to a healthier yard and garden, with thriving plant life and pops of greenery and color later. Winterizing can also reduce your workload in the spring, so you can spend more time simply enjoying Mother Nature. Follow these steps to properly prepare your lawn for the winter season.
Step 1 - Rake
This quintessential fall activity is an important task for lawn and garden winter preparation. Removing fallen leaves and other debris from your yard allows sunlight and moisture to reach grass roots and keep them healthy. If you leave piles of leaves on the lawn, it can kill the grass and leave unsightly brown spots.
Step 2 - Don’t Prune
Many people mistakenly assume that hard pruning should be done in the fall. Pruning is actually an activity that promotes plant growth, so there’s no reason to prune when the dormant season is approaching. If you do need to prune, go easy on it, or consult a local greenhouse or garden center first to find out if a particular plant needs to be cut back.
Step 3 - Cut Back Perennials
Now is the time to cut back and clean out perennials. These plants frequently have dead areas, so remove them to improve appearance and reduce unwanted moisture. After the first frost, you can cut back perennials to the soil for a tidier look.
Step 4 - Toss Annuals
You loved them all summer, but now is the time to get rid of your annual plants. These include any annuals you have planted in pots, hanging baskets, or flowerbeds. Unless you plan on bringing them indoors, these plants won’t survive the winter, so clear them out now before they become an eyesore or start harboring diseases.
Step 5 - Mulch
Grab some mulch and use it to cover vulnerable areas like flowerbeds, gardens, and the bases of young trees. The mulch will act as a protectant which insulates the soil and protects the plants within reach. When you’re mulching around trees, be sure to mound it away from the trunk. Shape it like a doughnut instead of a volcano.
Step 6 - Cover Tender Plants
Mulch isn’t the only option for protecting plants. If you have plants that are especially tender, consider covering them with a burlap sack for added protection.
Step 7 - Plant Spring Bulbs
Even though it’s turning cold, you can still look forward to spring by planting a variety of bulbs, such as colorful daffodils and tulips. It’s best to plant bulbs about six weeks before the first hard frost so that they can form roots and properly establish.
Step 8 - Aerate and Winterize the Grass
Aerating your lawn will open up the soil, which will in turn allow more oxygen and water to access the roots. You will have much healthier grass doing this. After aerating, you should also add a high quality winterizing lawn food that will provide root strengthening nutrients during the cold months.
Step 9 - Compost
Composting is not only good for the planet, but it is also good for your garden and flower bed. You can compost just about any organic material. Use the raked leaves, cut perennials, and uprooted annuals you’ve just accumulated, for example. If you have a shredder, put them through it first for more manageable compost. It’s okay if you don’t; just mix it together for use later as soil conditioner.
Step 10 - Tend the Garden
Get your garden ready for winter by pulling up harvested plants and removing debris like weeds, sticks, and rocks. Till the soil and add amendments such as compost, grass clippings, or cut leaves. Cover with hay or plant a crop cover, such as winter rye or crimson clover, to protect the soil and provide more nutrients in preparation for the next planting season.