PREPARING YOUR GARDEN FOR WINTER – Top 50 Autumn Tips To Prepare Your Garden For Winter!

After a bountiful harvest, what comes next? Check out our tips for preparing your garden for frost and overwintering your plants in order to ensure a beautiful and vibrant spring!


You can postpone the inevitable (that is, winter) for a while by covering your vegetables with old sheets or bedspreads on cold nights, but the declining light and chilly daytime temperatures will naturally bring plant growth to a halt. Get more tips for protecting your garden from frost, and see your local frost dates by zip code. Also, find out how you can learn to predict frost yourself!

Leave carrots, garlic, horseradish, leeks, parsnips, radishes, and turnips in the garden for harvesting through early winter. Mark the rows with tall stakes so that you can find them in snow, and cover them with a heavy layer of mulch to keep the ground from thawing.

1.Pull up tomato, squash, pea, and bean plants. If they’re disease-free, compost them. If any are diseased, either burn them or discard separately. Pull up and put away the stakes.

2.Before the ground gets too hard, remove all weeds and debris and eliminate overwintering sites for insects and disease. Check our Pest Library for tips on preventing the most common pests in your garden.

3.Gently till the soil to expose any insects who plan to overwinter; this will reduce pest troubles in the spring and summer. This is one of the most effective ways to reduce populations of Japanese beetles, whose grubs live and overwinter in the ground.

4.Once most of the garden soil is exposed, add a layer of compost, leaves, manure (if you have it), and lime (if you need it). Gently till into the soil.

5.Another option is to sow cover crops, such as winter rye, to improve your soil. See our article on Cover Crops for the U.S. and Cover Crops for Canada.6.If some areas have hopelessly gone to weeds, cover them with black plastic or a layer of cardboard and leave it in place over the winter and into the spring to kill sprouting seeds.


6.Sage is a perennial in most areas and does not need special treatment for the winter. Before frost stops its growth, cut a branch or two to dry and use in stuffing at Thanksgiving! (Try our delicious stuffed turkey recipe with sage.)

7.Rosemary is a tender evergreen perennial that should be sheltered outside (Zone 6) or potted up and brought inside (Zone 5 and colder) for the winter.

8.Thyme is fairly indestructible. A perennial, it will go dormant in the fall, then revive by itself in the spring.

9.Parsley, a biennial, will withstand a light frost. In Zone 5 or colder, cover it on cold nights. It has a long taproot and does not transplant well.

10.Chives are hardy perennials. Dig up a clump and pot it, then let the foliage die down and freeze for several weeks. Bring the pot indoors to a sunny, cool spot. Water well and harvest chives throughout the winter.

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11.In early to mid-fall, prune summer-bearing raspberries, leaving six of the strongest brown canes for every 1 foot of your row.

12.Prune fall-bearing raspberries ruthlessly, cutting them to the ground after they have borne fruit. New canes will come up in the spring.

13.Plant blackberries in the fall and mound up the soil around the canes to prevent hard frosts from heaving them out of the ground.

14.Cover strawberry beds with straw or hay.


15.Water your perennials and flowering shrubs in the fall; they will thank you for it this winter.

16.Once the ground has frozen hard, cut perennials back to 3 inches and mulch them with a thick layer of leaves or straw.

17.If you plan to put in a new flower bed next spring, cover that area now with mulch or heavy plastic to discourage emergent growth when the ground warms up in the spring.

18.Before a heavy snowfall, cover pachysandra with a mulch of pine needles several inches deep.

19.Move potted chrysanthemums to a sheltered spot when their flowers fade. Water well and cover with a thick layer of straw to overwinter them.

20.When a frost blackens the leaves of dahlias, gladioli, and cannas, carefully dig them up and let them dry indoors on newspaper for a few days. Then pack them in Styrofoam peanuts, dry peat moss, or shredded newspaper and store in a dark, humid spot at 40° to 50°F until spring.

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21.Geraniums (pelargoniums) are South African in origin, and there they have a three-month dormant period during winter’s excessive dryness. They need to be kept well watered before going into dormancy.

22.In the old days, we had cool cellars with dirt floors that were dark and moist. Our mothers shook the dirt off geranium roots and hung them upside down in bundles. In spring, they were cut back and potted up, and performed nicely.

23.If you have a cool place in your house (around 50°F), it is possible to overwinter your geraniums by keeping them in their pots and giving them very little water.

24.In spring, bring them into a warm place and water them heavily. When they start to show buds, repot them and prune heavily.

25.They will do best in plastic or glazed pots with very good drainage. (You can overwinter geraniums as houseplants without letting them go dormant, but they will be deprived of the rest they like.)


26.You may water roses regularly through the fall; no need to fertilize starting 6 weeks before the first frost.

27.Remove any dead or diseased canes.

28.After the first frost, mulch plants with compost or leaves to just above the swollen point where the stem joins the rootstock.

29.In areas where winter temperatures are severe, enclose low-growing roses with a sturdy cylinder of chicken wire or mesh and fill enclosure with chopped leaves, compost, mulch, dry wood chips, or pine needles.

30.Before daily temperatures drop well below freezing, carefully pull down the long canes of climbing and tea roses, lay them flat on the ground, and cover them with pine branches or mulch.

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31.Protect small trees or shrubs from extreme cold by surrounding them with a cylinder of snow fenc
ing and packing straw or shredded leaves inside the cylinder.

32.Inspect your trees. Remove any broken limbs, making a clean cut close to the trunk.

33.If you’re planning to buy a live Christmas tree this season, dig the hole where you’ll plant it before the ground freezes. Store the soil you remove in the garage or basement, where it won’t freeze. Place a board over the hole and mark the location so that you can find it if it snows.


34.Empty all of your outdoor containers to keep them from cracking during the winter. Store them upside down.

35.Hang a bucket over a hook in your toolshed or garage and use it to store hose nozzles and sprinkler attachments.

36.On a mild day, run your garden hose up over a railing or over the shed to remove all the water. Then roll it up and put it away.

37.Mow your lawn as late into the fall as the grass grows. Grass left too long when deep snow arrives can develop brown patches in the spring.

38.Don’t leave fallen leaves on the lawn. Rake onto a large sheet or tarp, then drag to your compost pile in thin layers mixed with old hay and other material. Or, rake the leaves into loose piles and run the mower over them to turn them into mulch for perennial and bulb beds. Get more tips on what to do with fall leaves.

39.Cover your compost pile with plastic or a thick layer of straw before snow falls.

40.Drain the fuel tank on your lawn mower or any other power equipment. Consult the owner’s manual for other winter maintenance.

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41.Remove Greenhouse Shading

By September, the days become shorter, and light is increasingly valuable resource. Removing the shade paint in your greenhouse will maximise the sunlight available to your plants. A bit of scrubbing with some hot water will bring the glass up sparkling clean. Pay attention to any gutters where trapped leaves will prevent rain water escaping from the roof of your greenhouse. Use this opportunity to replace any broken or damaged glass too.

42.Spring clean your greenhouse in autumn

Since you are already cleaning the outside of the greenhouse, it makes sense to tackle the inside as well to help reduce overwintering pests and diseases. Remove the plants before sweeping out any plant debris. Disinfect the greenhouse paths and staging, and the inside of the glass too. Use a hot solution of garden disinfectant such as Jeyes Fluid. You will need to ventilate your greenhouse well over the next couple of days to dry it thoroughly.

Throughout the quiet winter months make an effort to wash out pots and seed trays in preparation for the spring sowing and planting. 

43.Tidy Borders

Dig up annuals and add them to the compost heap. You can replant your beds with winter bedding such as pansies, bellis daisies and wallflowers for a colourful display next spring.

Autumn provides an ideal opportunity to move poorly placed plants, and divide overcrowded perennials while the soil is still warm. Cut back faded perennials to 5cm above ground level, but don’t be too tidy – some perennials have attractive seed heads that look wonderful covered in autumn dew, and provide handsome winter silhouettes.

They will also provide shelter for overwintering insects. Once your borders are clean and tidy, spread a thick layer of compost, bark chips or well rotted manure across them. Don’t worry about digging it in – let the worms do the hard work for you.

44.Lawn maintenance

If your lawn looks slightly worse for wear then autumn is the perfect time to revitalise it. Remove thatch (old grass clippings) and moss using a spring tined rake and add it to the compost heap. If you have large amounts of moss then you may want to use a moss killer first. In areas that receive a lot of wear (such as paths and play areas) the soil can become compacted. Improve drainage and aeration by making deep holes with the prongs of a garden fork every 10cm across the entire area.

A sandy top dressing can be brushed in afterwards, followed by an application of autumn lawn feed to prepare your lawn for the cold winter months. Autumn is a great time to lay new turf too, giving it plenty of time to establish before next summer.

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45.Make leaf mould

Leafmould adds structure and organic matter to your soil. Most leaves from deciduous trees and shrubs will rot down to make lovely leaf compost in a couple of years, although some leaves will take longer than others. Oak, alder, beech and hornbeam rot fairly quickly while sycamore, walnut, horse chestnut and sweet chestnut may take a little longer. Shredding the leaves first will help to speed things up. Evergreens are best shredded and added to the compost heap as they are very slow to decompose.

Construct a large bin out of wire mesh in a sheltered spot to collect your leaves in, or if space is limited simply use plastic bin liners with holes punch through the sides to let in the air. Fill the leaf bin/ bags with leaves and sprinkle with water. Tie the tops of bags and give them a good shake before stacking them out o
f sight and forgetting them for 2 years. If you are using a leaf bin you will need to remember to dampen the leaves occasionally if they become too dry. Once the leaves reach a crumbly texture they can be spread as a mulch throughout your borders.

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46.Clear out compost bins

The autumn clear up of borders and vegetable plots always generates a lot of plant material for the compost heap. Autumn is an ideal time to clear out last year’s compost and use it around the garden to make room in compost bins for this season’s garden waste. If your compost isn’t quite ready then turn it to improve decomposition, and create a new heap – you can never have too much compost!

47.Plant evergreens

Evergreens form the backbone of the garden, providing structure and year round interest, so the more evergreens in your garden, the better it will look in winter! With warm soil and cooler conditions, autumn is the perfect time to fill those gaps in your borders. Sarcococca and Daphne will bring glossy green leaves and beautifully fragrant flowers in the depths of winter while the rest of your garden is dormant. For an elegant larger shrub try spring flowering Camellias or Fatsia for its large architectural foliage.

For a more formal look, why not invest in some box or yew topiary. Lonicera nitida, Bay and Holly can also be clipped into formal shapes and make excellent evergreen hedges too.

48.Plant evergreens

Evergreens form the backbone of the garden, providing structure and year round interest, so the more evergreens in your garden, the better it will look in winter! With warm soil and cooler conditions, autumn is the perfect time to fill those gaps in your borders. Sarcococca and Daphne will bring glossy green leaves and beautifully fragrant flowers in the depths of winter while the rest of your garden is dormant. For an elegant larger shrub try spring flowering Camellias or Fatsia for its large architectural foliage.

For a more formal look, why not invest in some box or yew topiary. Lonicera nitida, Bay and Holly can also be clipped into formal shapes and make excellent evergreen hedges too.

49.Net ponds

Decomposing leaves can turn your pond water foul and block filters on pumps. Save effort later on by catching leaves before they fall into your pond. Simply spread a fine meshed net across the pond and pin it down with bricks. The leaves can be added straight to the compost heap or collected up to make leaf mould.

50.Maintain garden equipment

Before you store your lawn mower at the back of the shed, it is well worth sending it for a service to ensure that it is in perfect condition when you need it next spring. Shears and secateurs need sharpening – you can do this yourself or send them away if you prefer. Spades, forks and other tools will benefit from a good wash. Dry them thoroughly and oil the metal parts to prevent rust. Wooden handles can be cleaned and protected with linseed oil.

We hope these tips will help your garden survive winter and thrive in spring! Please share your own advice or ask any questions below!


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