Don’t hang your garden gloves up just yet! While you do get a break from weeding during the winter months, you’ll still need to pay attention to what’s going on in your garden. Think of it as switching gears as the seasons change.
Just like the tasks you need to do in the spring will differ from the tasks you need to do in the fall, your seasons might not be the same as other places. Depending on where you call home, your seasons may be longer or shorter, mild or more extreme. Adjust accordingly to what makes sense for your garden, and use this as a starting point to guide you.
Prioritizing Winter Care
Don’t be discouraged if you thought winter meant a break for you and your plants! It is a break from the fall to-dos, but there are still a few things to keep up with. Not all plants will need the same level of attention. To help, we’ve broken it down to main categories of plants that might need extra care and the plants that are hardy on their own.
Needs Winter Protection
Will Not Need Winter Protection
Any plants that are not cold hardy to your growing zone
Established shade trees and evergreen trees like maples, oaks, and pines
Newly planted varieties that have been in your landscape for less than 3 years
Cold hardy plants for your area
Plants and trees located in very windy areas
Plants in insulated containers
Any tender shrubs such as some rose varieties
Winter Garden Tasks
Now that you have a more targeted list of plants that might need more attention than others, start creating a list of things you can do now to help your garden in the spring.
- Take advantage of fallen leaves and use them as mulch
- Save your pruning for late winter and early spring
- Empty old pots and wash them to get them ready for reuse come spring
- Get thinking about spring plantings and projects!
- Embrace bare branches and use it to look for pruning that needs to be done while the leaves aren't in the way
- Clean and sharpen any of your tools
- Protect sensitive plants by wrapping them with a breathable cover
- Overwinter plants that need the extra attention
A good amount of the tasks you’ll need to do in the winter to keep your garden in shape is done just by observing. Occasionally, take a stroll in your garden to take note of changes or possible damage to stop it in its tracks. Below are just a few examples of things to watch out for.
You’ll know the kinds of critters that frequent your garden best, as it largely depends on where you’re located. Depending on your area you may have foraging animals that might try to damage the bark or nibble on any greenery available.
Some common winter creatures that might visit (and that you’ll want to keep an eye out for!) include deer, rabbits and other rodents like voles and mice that might gnaw on the lower branches or bark of trees.
To keep the critters at bay, we suggest physical deterrents like a tree wrap to guard the trunk or a fence to keep them away. For burrowing animals, a mesh can be laid down to halt the digging. For more information specific to your area we recommend reaching out to your local extension service.
Jack Frost doesn’t hold back when it comes to winter. While other places in the U.S. will never see snow, others have been plowing their driveways since November! Whatever your winter weather brings, here are some ideas of how it can affect your plants.
Freezing temperatures that rapidly occur can cause shrinking and swelling of tree trunks and splitting of bark. If this does happen, try to keep the area clean and clear of any pests or fungus, and come springtime, your tree will heal itself in most cases.
Heavy snow and ice combined with winds can weigh down trees, especially younger ones. While there is little you can do to control the weather, you can control the load on your trees.
Occasionally, go outside and knock the snow and ice off the tops to lessen the weight. Remember that trees can be brittle and too much weight can lead to breakage, so be gentle when removing the snow and ice. If breakage does occur, make it a clean cut and don't just leave it there. For more information on winter damage including evergreens we suggest this read.
When Spring Comes
As spring approaches, it brings new growth and yes, more changes to both the weather and your garden to-do list. Remember that the transition from winter to spring can be hard on plants. In general, plants know it’s time to start growing again and exit dormancy when the weather starts to heat up. Depending on where you live, you might experience more rain or less rain.
Be patient with trees emerging from dormancy and watchful of late frosts. It's a good idea to keep some frost blankets or another breathable fabric for protecting fragile flower buds handy just in case.
Don't let the winter pass by without showing some love to your garden. Even dormant plants can benefit from some TLC when the winter comes. Don’t be afraid of some extra work in the wintertime, as it’s well worth it come spring. And as always, if you have any specific questions, please let us know by reaching out to one of our plant experts!