Welcoming Winter: Garden Preparations

October 17, 2017


Like many, I can’t help but get excited for fall. The winds pick up and the air cools enough to wrap ourselves tightly in sweaters and scarves. The leaves change and my favorite vegetables are ready to be harvested and enjoyed with friends around a dinner table. As Alfred Austin said, "The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul."


And so, as much as I love the season, it makes me sad to see my garden fall into its winter slumber. There is truth in the age-old saying goes, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Therefore, preparing the garden for winter is essential to prepare the garden for success come next spring. Below is my annual Winter Garden Checklist for Spring Success; it’s a simple list of tasks to accomplish over the next few week that will ensure when the snow melts come April of next year, your garden will be ready to grow.





Clean up all debris and weeds

Cleaning up debris and pulling weeds is an every-Sunday evening task for me. Keeping the garden clean helps ensure no pests, no rodents and no disease. Plus, it just looks better.


Pull up your vegetables

As much as I love fall, it always make me sad to say goodbye to the vegetables I’ve enjoyed all summer long. Start by removing all dead vegetation and throwing it away. Any healthy vegetation can be added to your compost pile. Till the soil and add a thin layer of compost, followed by a thin layer of mulch.


Prepare you perennials

After the first frost, cut back the dry stems of perennials to 3 inches and remove any dead foliage. Once trimmed, add a layer of mulch around the bottom.


Winterize your roses and trees

Inspect your roses and trees, and remove any broken limbs. After the first frost, use chicken wire or mesh to create a cylinder around the base of your roses and trees. Fill the cylinder with mulch.


Give your grass a final fresh cut

At the end of fall, give you grass one last mow. Once finished, drain your mower of gasoline and store for the winter.


Plant bulbs

Alliums, tulips, paper whites and daffodils, the bottom drawers of my refrigerator are filled with more flowers than food. Now that the leaves are changing and the temperatures are dropping, it’s time to get your spring bulbs in the ground. I personally like to plant bulbs over the course of the month. Separating out when the bulb go in the ground ensures I will have flowers in all stages of the life cycle throughout spring.


Put your garden hose away

Over the weekend, extend your garden hose and let it sit to dry out any water. After a few days, roll it up and store it for the winter. This is a simple task that can easily be forgotten.


Scrub and clean your tools

Nothing is worse than being excited to start your spring garden, and having to clean your tools first. So do yourself this simple favor – clean your tools and store them for winter.


Start a compost pile

To be transparent, I have never had a compost pile. When I lived in San Francisco and Seattle, the city provided a compost bin. Chicago has a bit of catching up to do. Starting a compost pile is simple, but requires a little bit of work, and potentially some bad smells. Refer to these step-by-step instructions to start your own.


images via Terrain // Kaufmann Mercantile

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