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.

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    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!

    7 Gifts for the Gardener on Your Christmas (or “Just Because”) List

    Winter may be on its way in, but the gardener is most likely already thinking about the next gardening season. Fall is when the garden gets put to bed, and winter is when the seeds and plants are ordered for spring.

    If you have a gardener on your gift list, the 7 suggestions below are sure to be a hit with him/her. And if you’re also a gardener, feel free to treat yourself as well.

    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.

    Garden gloves
    A good pair of garden gloves is a must-have for any gardener. They will protect your hands from thorns, dirt, and other potential hazards. Look for a pair that is comfortable to wear and made from durable material. Leather fingers and palms with a breathable fabric on the top is, in my opinion, the best. A soft leather works best as it gives more mobility, plus a better fit.

    When I find a good pair of gloves, I tend to buy an extra pair the same; simply because styles are often discontinued. (That said, I should go to my local UFA and get another pair.)

    Garden tools
    Every gardener needs a good set of tools. Look for a set that includes all the basics, such as a trowel, rake, shovel, and pruning shears. If you are looking for a more comprehensive set, look for one that also includes a wheelbarrow and gardening hose.

    For the indoor gardener, a set of mini tools is ideal. A full-size rake and spade are not the best choice for miniature gardens. A tool that’s often overlooked is a wooden platform (rectangular of circular) on wheels; ideal for moving heavy pots and planters.

    Gardening books or journals
    If the gardener in your life is always looking to learn more about gardening, give them a few good books on the subject. A few popular titles include The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, The Flower Gardener’s Bible, and The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control.

    One of my personal favourites is Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew. It has taught me a new way to garden in less space, yet have a bountiful harvest.

    (If your gardener is into ebooks, grab them a copy of my gardening books over in the sidebar.)

    A gardening journal is also a wonderful gift. Your gardener can keep records of their very own garden: seeds, plants, crop rotation, harvest dates, tools used, photos, and more.

    Garden tools and journals. Image generated by Jasper Art.

    Seeds or bulbs
    For the gardener who loves to start their own plants from scratch, give them seeds or bulbs that they can plant in the spring. Some popular choices include sunflowers, tulips, daffodils, and lilies.

    Putting together a combination of flower and vegetable seeds, along with blank plastic labels and a permanent marker, in a basket makes a wonderful gift.

    Garden statue or birdbath
    A garden statue or birdbath can add beauty and interest to any garden. Look for something that fits the style of the gardener’s garden. Popular choices include classic Greek or Roman statues, whimsical gnomes or fairies, or elegant angels or cherubs.

    If the gardener on your list loves birds, a birdbath and bird feeder can be bundled together, along with a bag of bird seed.

    Gazing globes are also a pretty addition, and are perfect for small gardens. I have a cherub with a 3 inch globe, but would love a 6 inch (or bigger) globe. The beauty of the gazing globe I have is it is made from a virtually unbreakable material. This is ideal because there’s no danger of pieces of glass everywhere when a rock from the mower hits it.

    Garden furniture
    If the gardener in your life enjoys spending time in their garden, consider giving them some new garden furniture. A comfortable chair or bench is perfect for relaxing in after a long day of gardening. A patio table and chairs would be ideal for entertaining guests in the garden.

    A wrought-iron bistro set is a nice addition to a small garden, and can be purchased in green, white, or black (that I’ve seen). I have a white set that I bought over 10 years ago, and it has weathered well.

    Gift certificate to a nursery or garden center
    For the gardener who has everything, a gift certificate to their favorite nursery or garden center is always appreciated. This way they can choose exactly what they need or want for their garden.

    Gardeners aren’t hard people to buy gifts for. It doesn’t take much to make us happy. Give us some seeds, potting soil, and a book about plants and we’ll be forever grateful.

    So the next time you’re wondering what to get the gardener on your list, go back over this post and you’re sure to come up with a gift they’ll love.

    What is the best garden gift you’ve received?

    Gardening and the Weather

    There’s one thing we can’t control, and that’s the weather.

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    When it comes to gardening, we want ideal conditions. Not too wet and not too dry. Not too hot and not too cold. It sometimes feels as if the weather is always against us.

    We may not be able to control it, but we can take measures to work with it. Planting after the risk of frost has passed and covering our crops in the fall.

    Collecting rainwater for watering when there’s no rain in sight. Planting in raised beds or adding sand and compost to clay soil for better drainage.

    And sometimes Mother Nature dishes out conditions we can’t do anything about, such as a hailstorm.

    Unless you plant everything in a greenhouse, hoop house or high tunnel (all basically the same thing) you’re going to have a challenge when it comes to the perfect weather conditions.

    You may not be able to control it, but you can take measures to be better prepared for it. Let me explain.

    One thing you can do is to tie your tall plants to a sturdy fence or poles to protect them from wind damage during a storm. That doesn’t mean you should be running around trying to figure it out at the onset of a thunderstorm, but rather plant so you have a measure of protection in place ahead of time.

    Something else you can do is have framework above your raised beds or along your rows so you can add a cover if it’s going to storm or freeze. Hailstones don’t do quite as much damage when they have to get through a row cover first.

    Investing in a weather station will help you make decisions based on the forecast, plus will give you some additional data as well. Knowing how much rainfall your yard gets during the summer will help with deciding which crops will flourish and which won’t without additional watering. Plus, knowing the temperatures (both highs and lows) will help with your perennial selection. Some plants can handle minus forty temperatures if they have adequate snow cover, while others are more sensitive to the cold.

    The outdoor part of our new weather station.

    If a weather station is out of your price range, take advantage of the local forecast.

    I rely on The Weather Network App more than any other when it comes to planning my garden and the other things I do. It’s amazing how our area can be so different from the village, which is less than twenty kilometres away. It must be because we’re north of the river.

    This year is going to be more interesting because we did invest in a weather station, so we’ll have more accurate data based on our precise location. It will be fun to see how much temperature, rainfall and amount of wind we get varies from the numbers my app will tell me. (Remind me to keep a journal so I can track the differences.)

    We put it up this weekend so won’t know any predictions for approximately fourteen days. The instruction manual says it will take that long while the device learns our particular weather pattern. As it sits now, we can see outside temperature, windchill factor, wind speed, barometric pressure and humidity. Plus, it gives us some inside data as well. It’s like having a new toy; we keep checking the display to see what it says. We’re such kids!

    The inside display panel.

    We mounted ours to the top of a twelve-foot post and put it at the northeast corner of our garden. The instructions said it needs to be in as open an area as possible for accuracy. Our yard itself is quite sheltered, which has its advantages and disadvantages. (That, however, is for a different blog post.) Ideally it would be interesting to see how much of a difference there is between the open area and the sheltered area.

    Do you have a weather station? If so, do you rely on it more than the weather apps or local radio/TV station? Post your comments below.