Preparing Your Garden for Winter: A 5-Point Guide for Northern Climates

As the vibrant colors of autumn fade and the chill in the air becomes more pronounced, it’s time to start thinking about putting your garden to bed for the winter. In northern climates, where harsh winters can take a toll on your beloved plants, proper preparation is key to ensuring a healthy and thriving garden come spring. In this guide, I’ll walk you through five essential steps to help your garden weather the cold months ahead.

Disclaimer: Links within this post are either to my own products, or products I endorse. I may receive a small commission should you make a purchase through an affiliate link, at no extra cost to you. My blog is supported through commissions and sales of my products. Plus, if you like what you read you can show your support by pinning this post, sharing on social media, or buy me a coffee.  Thank you for your continued support.

1. Clean Up and Remove Debris:

The first step in getting your garden ready for winter is to give it a good clean-up. Start by removing any dead plants, weeds, and fallen leaves. This not only tidies up the garden but also helps prevent the spread of diseases and pests during the dormant season.

But don’t stop there! Perennial plants, those that come back year after year, benefit from a trim. Cut them back to about 2-3 inches above the soil level. This not only keeps things looking neat but also protects these plants from frost damage and makes spring growth easier. If you have a variety of perennials it’s a good idea to check the pruning/cutting back recommendations for each variety.

2. Mulch and Insulate:

Mulching is like tucking your garden in with a warm blanket for the winter. Apply a generous layer of organic mulch, such as straw, leaves, or wood chips, to your garden beds. This layer of mulch acts as insulation, helping to regulate soil temperatures and protect plant roots from freezing.

Mulching also has the added benefit of preventing soil erosion and keeping pesky winter weeds at bay, making your spring gardening tasks a bit more manageable. In areas where snow covers the ground the mulch is an extra layer of insulation.

Get our printable Herb Reference Guide

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.
    3. Protect Delicate Plants:

    Not all plants are built to withstand the frigid temperatures of a northern winter. If you have delicate or tropical plants in your garden, consider giving them a little extra TLC. One option is to dig them up and transplant them into containers. This way, you can provide them with indoor winter care, ensuring their survival until spring returns.

    Alternatively, you can use protective coverings like burlap or frost cloth to shield delicate plants from extreme cold and frost. Just remember to remove these covers during milder winter days to allow the plants to breathe.

    A little personal note on this: I generally do not plant anything that can’t withstand our harsh winters. However, this year I started Goji Berries and have planted them out in my mini-orchard. The seed source claims they will survive but time will tell.

    Goji Berries and 2 little helpers. Photo source: Diane Ziomek
    4. Clean and Store Garden Tools:

    Your garden tools have worked hard all season, and they deserve some attention too. Clean and properly store them to prevent rust and damage during the winter months. Ensure they are completely dry before putting them away. This simple step will extend the life of your tools and save you from having to replace them prematurely.

    Don’t forget about your garden hoses! Drain them thoroughly and store them in a dry location to prevent freezing and cracking. All too often hoses get left attached to the outdoor faucets, which results in cracked pipes as well. A little maintenance now can save you from frustration and expense in the spring.

    5. Plan for Spring:

    While you’re putting your garden to bed, take some time to reflect on the past growing season. What worked well? What didn’t? Use this valuable information to plan for next year’s garden. Consider starting seeds indoors for early spring planting or ordering seeds and supplies well in advance.

    By making a plan now, you’ll be better prepared for a successful and bountiful gardening season when the warmer weather returns. This is the ideal time to start a gardening journal if you don’t already have one. That way you’ll have a record of what did and didn’t work this season.

    Wrapping it up:

    Putting your garden to bed for the winter in a northern climate may take a bit of effort, but it’s well worth it. These five steps—cleaning up, mulching, protecting delicate plants, caring for your tools, and planning for spring—will help your garden not only survive the winter but thrive when the snow melts and the days grow longer. With a little care now, you’ll be rewarded with a vibrant and beautiful garden in the seasons to come. Happy gardening!

    How to Garden When You’re in Transition

    The last couple of years have been learning ones for me; mainly learning how to do a lot of things on my own.

    This year with my upcoming move I have to make sure I don’t plant anything that won’t be ready by the time I pack up the last of my things. For a gardener, that’s not the easiest feat to accomplish.

    As much as I like to grow my vegetables, herbs, and flowers in my raised beds, I’m going to have to resort to container gardening this year. And even with the containers, I’m going to have to make sure I don’t plant too many. I honestly don’t think my friends and family are going to appreciate having to move a lot of containers.

    Disclaimer: Links within this post are either to my own products, or products I endorse. I may receive a small commission should you make a purchase through an affiliate link, at no extra cost to you. My blog is supported through commissions and sales of my products. Plus, if you like what you read you can show your support by pinning this post, sharing on social media, or buy me a coffee.  Thank you for your continued support.

    Keep it small.

    As much as gardeners love to plant, it’s important to remember the harvest may not be ready until after you’re in your new location. I know that’s going to be the case for me, because I’ll be moving in July. July is usually when everything really gets growing.

    If you feel you must plant something, stick to radishes, lettuce, spinach, and cherry tomatoes. They can be harvested early (except the tomatoes) and do well in containers.

    Spend time cleaning up your existing yard.

    As you know, I had trees taken down last fall. As I wait for moving day I am concentrating on cleaning up the wood chips, branches, and logs that were left (upon my request). I don’t want to leave the yard a mess for my brother-in-law. Not only will it make it easier for him, I’ll get my steps and exercise in when the weather is good.

    Plan out your new yard.

    Whether you’re moving onto a farm, an acreage, or a municipality, figuring out what to do with your new space can satisfy the need to do something garden-related.

    Last week I was able to visit my new yard and I took a lot of pictures, just so I can have a visual and figure out where to put my trees, raised beds, raspberries, and asparagus. As I wait for moving day I’ll be utilizing some graph paper or a page or three in my planner, just so I can get to work as soon as I’m unpacked.

    As I was walking around my new yard, I saw this. She must’ve been buried in a snow drift because I didn’t see her when I was there the 3 previous times.

    When I built my deck two years ago I had some leftover lumber, which will also be moved and utilized in my new space. I think I have enough to add on to the existing deck, plus build a set of steps from the garage to the lower part of the yard. (There are currently some railroad ties there, and I do not like the look or the smell of them. They will be one of the first things to go.)

    Give your houseplants the attention they deserve.

    Not every gardener has houseplants, but for those of you that do, transition time is the perfect time to repot, fertilize, prune, divide, and conquer.

    I did a bunch of repotting a few weeks ago, and my plants are loving their new root space. It’s amazing how much difference an extra inch or two of soil space makes.

    I also acquired two new plants last week. My daughter wanted to get me something for Mother’s Day and my birthday, so we went to the greenhouse. She bought me two African Violets (yes, I’m going to try growing them again); one with pink flowers and the other with blue flowers. They weren’t expensive (I wouldn’t let her spend a lot of money on me), but I hope I don’t kill them. I have to get it right with them sooner or later, right?

    Organize and take inventory of your seeds.

    I don’t know about you, but my seeds are in a couple of small plastic totes. One holds flower seeds and the other is filled with vegetable seeds. At this point they are not organized; just put in the totes so they don’t end up all over.

    I’m currently working on a printable Garden Planner/Journal, and one of the sections is going to have inventory sheets. I’m expanding on one I created in the past, because I see a need for more than just a few pages. (My goal is to have it finished and ready for sale by month-end.)

    Dig up any perennials/trees/shrubs you will be moving to your new space.

    In my last post I talked about my apple trees, and the research I did on moving them. It has been a cold spring so I was worried about the roots freezing if I dug them up too soon. We finally had a decent rain and some warmer temperatures, and my trees are now leafing out…and still in the ground.

    My plan is to dig them up and put them in 5 gallon buckets this weekend, with hopes they survive. I’ll also be digging up my peony, some raspberry bushes, a Virginia Creeper, and some asparagus. Those alone should give me enough to take care of and worry about until I get them in the ground at my new place.


    There is always something for a gardener to do, even if planting, weeding, and harvesting has to be delayed for a season. Make the best of your gardening time, no matter what else is happening in your life. Gardening truly is good for the body, mind, and soul. And when your transition is done, you can enjoy the features of your new space.

    p.s. I think I need a name for my tree stump (pictured above). What are your thoughts on a name for her?