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Quick Tips to Get Your Garden Ready for Winter

Shrubs and trees in pots with fall colors at Kalleco Nursery, Corp.

Autumn is here, and that means winter is next! We know, we’re sad to see the growing season end too. But that just means it’s time to help your garden get a head start on next spring! So here are our quick tips on getting your trees, shrubs, and perennials winter-ready before the fall ends.

Planting

This is the last window for planting before the frost! Fall is the best time to plant, especially for trees and shrubs. Cooler mornings and evenings, increased precipitation, and warm sunny days mean a new plant has the perfect conditions to get established. Just remember to water regularly and fertilize to make sure their roots get deep enough into the ground to survive the winter.

Watering

When to stop watering can be a tricky question. It varies from year to year and from plant to plant. While things might appear to die off in the autumn, they’re actually redirecting their growing energy to their root systems. Reaching down into the soil is key to getting through the winter cold. Here are a few general tips on watering this time of year:

  • If the weather stays warm, dry, and windy, keep watering as usual until it cools off.
  • North-facing plants get less sun and will hold water, while south-facing plants get more sun, leaving them a bit dryer. Focus your watering efforts especially on your south-facing garden.
  • Evergreens are hardy, but they do keep their foliage year-round! Supporting those needles and leaves takes some extra energy, so giving them some extra love and care – water and fertilizer – is a good idea this time of year.
  • New plantings and transplants will need regular watering while they get established.
  • Mulching helps a ton, but more on that next…

Mulch

It’s never a bad idea to mulch. Mulching helps insulate roots from all weather extremes, from dry hot summer sun to cold winter frost. Plus, undyed mulches can have some of the nutritional benefits of organic compost. Adding a 2” layer of mulch now will help insulate and support your plants’ root systems throughout the winter. Plus, mulch can help the soil around your plants hold moisture when it’s dry!

Pruning and Cutting Back

We have a whole article on pruning like a pro, so we’ll make this quick. Prune before the frost, or wait until the early spring. Grasses and perennials can generally be cut back to about 4” above ground. It’s also a good idea to shape trees and shrubs now, but make sure you’re giving each plant exactly what it needs!

Fertilizing

October is the last time we recommend fertilizing your plants. This is because fertilizing leads to growth, and your plants are already going to be stressed as the frost sets in; you want them to be able to focus on overwintering, not supporting new branches or leaves. Fertilizing for root growth in September or early October is the best way to make sure your plants get the maximum benefit. Otherwise, wait until spring!

Wrapping, Covering, Supporting

Snow and ice can weigh down and damage more delicate plants. Harsh winter winds can dry out or burn taller shrubs and trees. Giving these vulnerable plants a burlap wrap or supports in the form of staking or covering can help them survive the winter and bounce back in the spring.