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Plants & Gardens Blog

Get Your Garden Ready for Winter

As the temperatures drop, there are a few chores left before the snow begins. Follow these tips to help protect and enrich your garden throughout the winter months and ensure a healthy and productive growing season next year.

Add Nutrients

Fall is a good time to add compost, manure, and other amendments to the garden. Most other fertilizers are best applied in the spring. If you’re not sure about the quality of your soil, take a sample and send it out for analysis. If you do this before the first frost, you should get the results back in time to work in recommended amendments while the ground is still soft.

Add Mulch

One of the most important things you can do for your garden over the winter to ensure spring success is mulch. Mulch decomposes over the winter, adding nutrients to the soil. It also helps protect perennials from fluctuating temperatures and soil heaving.

Clean up Plant Beds

Pests can survive over winter under plant residue, so remove fallen leaves and fruits around perennials and either pull out and compost annuals or turn them under so that they can start breaking down over the winter and add organic matter back into the soil.

Replace Bulbs

Tender summer-blooming bulbs such as dahlias, gladiolas, and cannas can’t survive the frost, so dig them up and store them in a cool, dry place indoors for replanting next year. After removing summer bulbs from the garden, fill the vacancy with spring-flowering bulbs such as tulips or daffodils for a burst of spring color.

Clean Your Tools

Empty your hoses and watering cans and put them in storage. Clean the metal parts of your pruning tools with water and a stiff brush, then dry them and wipe them down with oil. Treat the wooden handles of trowels and other tools with linseed oil to prevent them from splintering.

Bring Some Plants Indoors

It’s always nice to have some green inside on cold winter days, and there are many plants and herbs that can be dug up and grown in containers indoors. Thyme does especially well on windowsills, as do begonias and peppers. Make sure to examine them for pests before bringing them inside.

Start Planning for Next Year

As you tidy up your garden, take stock of what worked well and what didn’t. Sketch a garden map so that in the dark days of winter you can begin planning what and where to plant come spring.

Rebecca Bullene is a former editor at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. She is the proprietor of Greenery NYC, a creative floral and garden design company that specializes in botanical works of art including terrariums, urban oasis gardens, and whimsical floral arrangements.


  • BBG Rosarian December 6, 2013

    It sounds like your rose has several disadvantages due to genetics and its container environment. In the future, it may be prudent to choose a cultivar that is a continuous bloomer. For any containerized rose, make sure it gets at least eight hours of full sun and adequate water, plus several applications of organic fertilizer and compost for best vegetative growth, flowering, and disease resistance. For winter care of a potted rose on a terrace, the most important thing is to fend against desiccating wind. I don’t recommend pruning your rose in the autumn unless it’s a climber and needs to be kept from whipping around in winter weather. Protect it with pine boughs, and/or wrap it in burlap if it’s in an extremely exposed spot. In late winter before leaf-out (around St. Patrick’s Day), prune no more than 1/3 of the bush in height and density.

  • Helene Salowitz November 20, 2013

    I have a rosebush on my terrace that bloomed when I bought it in the spring; however, after they died, leaves came back but no roses. Do I cover the rosebush with something or bring it indoors? I think I’m supposed to cut back the bush, but I don’t know where to cut. Do you have any advice for me besides don’t buy roses again? Thank you.

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