Garden Wintering: How To Do It Right

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 09:04 pm

How to create a winter garden | Greener on the Inside

Autumn is drawing to a close, the beds have been harvested and the trees have lost their colorful leaves. That means it’s time to prepare the garden for winter. This guide will tell you how to do it, which plants need special protection and how to make the most of leaves, branches and the like.

When should the garden be winterized?


The ideal time to winterize your garden is mid-October to early November. It is essential to protect plants and objects from the coming winter with its low temperatures, frost and snow. But autumn is also ideal for planting trees. What work you should do around the house and in the garden before the first frost, you will learn with our checklist:

Winterize your garden: Our checklist

Garden Wintering: How To Do It Right


Dealing with leaves
You should rake away leaves so they don’t rot on the lawn. In addition, leaves and foliage lying around deprive the underlying lawn of sunlight. In the worst case, the lawn will die from a prolonged lack of light, and a brown, unsightly lawn awaits you in the spring.


However, leaves should be left on beds – especially rose and fruit beds – as they provide additional insulation to the bed and thus protect the plants from frost and cold.


The gutter should be cleared of leaves so that water can drain away unhindered. Alternatively, you can install special grids that protect against the accumulation of leaves in the gutter.

Mow the lawn
Before hibernation, you should once again mow the lawn. The ideal length of the lawn is 5-6 cm. You can simply rake off the grass cuttings and fertilize the lawn with special winter fertilizer or lime. In this way, the lawn will be supplied with all the necessary nutrients even during the cold winter months. This will allow it to grow lush again next spring.

Turn off water pipes/empty rain barrels
Remove all garden hoses and turn off the water. Turn the line on again afterward to allow the remaining water to drain, as water residue in the lines could freeze and expand, damaging the lines and pipes. Rain barrels should also be emptied, as expanding water could damage the rain barrel.

Stow garden furniture/equipment


Now is the ideal time to take stock and clean up as well as declutter your garden shed: what else will be needed next spring, what equipment or tools are broken and would need to be repaired or replaced?


Clean equipment as well as tools and store them neatly.
Fertilizer should be packed airtight and stored safely.
You can either put garden furniture in the garden shed or store it in the cellar. Wooden furniture in particular should be brought inside during the winter to prevent it from swelling due to moisture. Metal furniture can be wintered outside well covered.
Protect greenhouse/garden house


Inspect your greenhouse and also the garden shed for damage: are all exterior walls, doors, windows and seals intact or does something need to be repaired?


You can also insulate the greenhouse with bubble wrap if necessary.
If you use the greenhouse or your garden shed to overwinter some plants, don’t forget to take care of them. After all, plants need routine care in the winter.


Regular shock ventilation, especially in the greenhouse, provides air circulation and prevents the growth of algae and mold.
If the snowfall is particularly heavy and persistent, the roof of your garden shed should be cleared of snow.

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Winterize the pool


Your pool also needs to be winterized. Depending on the type of pool, different tasks need to be done to winterize the pool. Basically, though, any pool should be thoroughly cleaned and covered for the winter.

Winterize the garden pond
Your backyard pond also needs attention to weather the winter well. Remove algae and foliage and cut back shore and pond plants. The filter system and pond pump should be removed, cleaned and stored in a dry place. Pond plants that are sensitive to frost can be overwintered in a bucket of water. Fish usually go into hibernation, but shallow ponds in particular are at risk of freezing over completely. Therefore, move fish and other pond inhabitants to frost-free winter quarters.

Plants

Winter Garden | Hampshire County Council


Your plants also need to be prepared for the coming winter months. Here, a basic distinction is made between tub plants and outdoor plants. Potted plants require more care and preparation to overwinter, as their roots are more susceptible to frost. Outdoor specimens, on the other hand, are easier to care for and less sensitive, as the surrounding soil protects the roots from freezing.

Different plants require different winter protection. But which plant needs which protection and which plant can even overwinter outside without hesitation? A distinction is made primarily between hardy, conditionally hardy and frost-sensitive plants, all of which require different winter protection. The following table with technical terms will help you to better assess the different needs of your plants:

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Plant speciesProtective measuresExample plant
Winter hardySurvive winter without additional measures. Potted plants need additional protection to protect the roots.Perennials, boxwood, laurel
Conditionally hardyCan overwinter outdoors, but need additional protection or should be brought indoors. Also applies to hardy potted plants.Palm trees, magnolias, oleander
Sensitive to frostShould definitely be brought indoors to a frost-free winter quarters.Mediterranean, tropical plants

Please always check with a specialty store or the department at the hardware store to find out which plant is hardy and which may need additional protection or need to be brought indoors to survive the winter well. There are often tags on the plants with care instructions.

Using some plant species that are particularly popular and frequently planted in European gardens or on terraces, we explain the most important steps on how to winter-proof your garden:

Trees, shrubs, perennials


Trees: remove any remaining fruit. Dead branches should be cut off near the trunk, and branches that are too long should be pruned back above a young shoot.
Shrubs: diseased branches are cut off and long shoots are pruned back.
Perennials: Perennials are topped close to the ground.


Potted plants


Bring potted plants indoors and place them in a cool, bright place (for example, in the basement, garage or stairwell). Temperatures of 5-10 °C are ideal for tub plants The following also applies here: Depending on the plant species, the plant has very different requirements for suitable winter quarters. Please find out which winter quarters are suitable for which plant.
Too large or heavy potted plants that you cannot bring indoors must be prepared for wintering outdoors: Wrap the crown with fleece and the tub with bubble wrap. It is best to place the tub on a Styrofoam or wooden board so that the plant is protected from the cold from below, because the roots must not freeze through.
Hardy potted plants can be overwintered outdoors, but should be given additional protection for particularly low temperatures: Again, the tubs should be sheathed, placed on Styrofoam or wood and against a protective house wall.

Tip:
Cover the soil with collected leaves or mulch for additional insulation and to protect the plant with its frost-sensitive roots.
Mediterranean, heat-loving plants
Heat-loving, Mediterranean or exotic plants such as lemon or olive trees or hibiscus can be brought into the greenhouse or conservatory or placed in the stairwell. It is important to have an adequate supply of light, otherwise the sensitive plants will die if there is a lack of light. Some tropical plants also feel very comfortable with a little warmth and should therefore possibly be overwintered, for example, in the living room.

Important: Sensitive plants should be brought into the winter quarters before the first night frost. Even the slightest frost will otherwise cause damage.

Tip:
In case of prolonged sub-zero temperatures and frost, the crowns of sensitive and Mediterranean plants can always be additionally covered with plant fleece. As soon as the temperatures become more pleasant again, however, remove this protection as soon as possible and let the plants out into the fresh air. Otherwise, lack of light threatens rot and incoming plant splendor.

Vegetable plants/high bed/herb bed
Vegetables:


Vegetable plants can withstand low temperatures down to minus 5 °C well. Cover the bed with autumn leaves or fir brushwood as an insulating layer. If temperatures drop extremely low for an extended period, you can cover the vegetable bed with fleece for additional protection.

Raised bed:


Your raised bed needs a little more attention: harvest it and loosen the top layer. Cover the soil with straw or semi-mature compost, for example. Finally, cover the raised bed. Foil, for example, is suitable for this. Alternatively, plant the raised bed in winter with perennial plants such as winter lettuce, perennials, herbs or kale.

Herbs:


Herbs also need to be prepared for winter. Many herbs are perennials and should therefore be harvested and cut back in the fall. This applies to mint and lemon balm, for example. More sensitive and non-hardy herbs such as lavender or rosemary need to be protected from frost and snow with a fleece and should not be cut back until spring. Basil that is sensitive to frost should be brought indoors or overwintered in a greenhouse.

Roses, palms, hydrangeas, oleander.
Roses:
Dead, diseased shoots should be cut off after the last bloom. All other shoots must be shortened (by a maximum of one third). Pile up about 10-20 cm of soil around the trunk. You can mix the soil with brushwood. You should also cover the rest of the bed with leaves and brushwood. For tall stem roses, loosely place a paper bag or jute over the crown and secure, wrapping the entire stem with brushwood if necessary. For roses in tubs: wrap tubs as described above.

Palm trees:


Insulate tub palms with several layers of bubble wrap or coconut matting, about a hand’s width beyond the tub. Protect the trunk with a special trunk protection mat and place the tub on a Styrofoam or wooden board. Place the palm tree close to a house wall. This will protect the plant from wind and rain. More frost-sensitive palm species must be overwintered indoors. For planted specimens, protect the roots by covering the soil around the palm with brushwood, leaves, mulch or straw. Loosely tie palm fronds together at the top with coir or sisal tape. In extreme sub-zero temperatures, wrap the fronds additionally with jute. The trunk should also be wrapped with jute or straw mat.

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Hydrangeas:


Wrap the tub well with bubble wrap and coconut matting and cover the soil with fall leaves. Place the tub on Styrofoam or wood and find a spot protected from the wind. For example, place the tub against a house wall. Planted-out hydrangeas, on the other hand, do not need additional winter protection. However, the soil above the roots should be covered with autumn leaves and fir branches.

Oleander:


Oleander tolerates sub-zero temperatures and light night frosts to some extent, but should be moved indoors to a cool, bright location over the winter. Planted out specimens should be well wrapped and protected with fleece.

Plant early bloomers/fruit trees.


Fall is a good time to plant fruit trees such as apple, cherry or plum. This is because the tree has enough time to develop its roots in the last weeks of autumn and over the winter, and then grow with full energy in the spring.

Tip:
Mix the soil for the planting hole with compost. This will give the tree all the nutrients it needs over the winter to develop its roots and grow magnificently.
Freshly planted trees need special protection for the winter: Tie up the young shoots so that they can develop their roots undisturbed and do not have to spend their strength fighting the wind and weather. An additional coat of lime will also help protect the bark of young trees from frost, stress cracking and pest infestation.

Early bloomers such as tulips and crocuses are also best planted in the fall. Important: Plant these before the first frost.

Watering in winter

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Although their metabolism is significantly down in the winter months, plants still need adequate water in the winter. Winter-hardy plants, for example, have no problem with the cold temperatures, but they still need an extra supply of water. This is because snow is not enough to keep plants adequately hydrated, as moisture does not penetrate to the roots. In addition, strong sun rays cause water to evaporate quickly. Therefore applies:

Use the frost-free days and water your plants so that they do not lose their leaves and, in the worst case, dry out.

As a rule, it is enough to water the plants once a week. However, it is essential that the soil is completely dry, otherwise there is a risk of waterlogging and rotting. Special requirements apply to Mediterranean plants. Find out what water requirements your plants have.

Tips & Tricks


Use the leaves for your raised bed. In this way, it can be put to good use. If you have accumulated too much foliage, you can also pile it up in a corner of the garden and thus create a small shelter for hedgehogs and co.
Not sure if your plants or the bed need to be watered again? A moisture meter can help: it measures whether the plants are over- or under-watered.
You can also do something good for birds by setting up a feeding station in your garden. Domestic birds are particularly happy to receive grains, oatmeal or raisins.
Use leaves and cut branches as autumnal decorations for your dining table, windowsill or vases.
Go bargain hunting: Especially towards the end of the gardening season, nurseries and specialty stores want to clear out their stock for the winter. Here it is worth looking out for bargains.
Many nurseries offer a so-called overwintering service. Here, the specialist staff ensures that your plants are well cared for and well protected through the winter. Check with the nursery you trust to see if they offer such a service.

Watering in winter
Although their metabolism is significantly down in the winter months, plants still need adequate water in the winter. Winter-hardy plants, for example, have no problem with the cold temperatures, but they still need an extra supply of water. This is because snow is not enough to keep plants adequately hydrated, as moisture does not penetrate to the roots. In addition, strong sun rays cause water to evaporate quickly. Therefore applies:

Use the frost-free days and water your plants so that they do not lose their leaves and, in the worst case, dry out.

As a rule, it is enough to water the plants once a week. However, it is essential that the soil is completely dry, otherwise there is a risk of waterlogging and rotting. Special requirements apply to Mediterranean plants. Find out what water requirements your plants have.

Avoid common mistakes
Not knowing the plant’s needs:
Be sure to find out which plant can be safely overwintered outside and which must be brought indoors. This is the only way to enjoy your garden next spring.

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Bringing plants into winter quarters too early:
Really don’t bring plants indoors or into winter quarters until it becomes too uncomfortable outside. Plants should stay outdoors as long as possible. This is the only way they can get used to the colder temperatures. Also, keep the time in the winter quarters as short as possible. Put the plants back out as early as possible, because plants thrive best outside.

Foliage layer on beds too thick:
The layer should be a maximum of 5 cm thick, otherwise rotting could occur under the foliage.

Leaving the garden to its own devices:
Winterizing the garden certainly involves a lot of work. However, you should not leave the garden to itself. This may seem to make gardening easier for you in the fall, but then there is all the more work to do in the spring. Therefore, prepare your garden for the winter as much as possible.

Wrap the plants with the wrong materials:
Be sure to use materials that are permeable to air. Otherwise, the plant will begin to sweat under the cover when exposed to sunlight. A warm and humid environment is created and rot is imminent.

Forget watering:
Even in winter, plants are thirsty. Therefore, provide your plants with sufficient water.

Too dark a place:
In their winter quarters, plants need sufficient light. Otherwise they will die. Ideal winter quarters are therefore the winter garden, a greenhouse or the stairwell.

Frequently asked questions


Here you will find answers to questions we are frequently asked.

Which plants can overwinter outside in a container?
Here we distinguish between hardy, conditionally hardy and frost-sensitive plants. Winter-hardy tub plants survive the European winter well, but require additional protection with bubble wrap and should be placed on Styrofoam or wood.

Conditionally hardy potted plants should also be thickly wrapped, but at best should be overwintered indoors. Frost-sensitive potted plants should definitely be wintered indoors.

How do I winterize my flowers?


Balcony plants also need to be prepared for the cold winter months. For hardy plants, the following applies:

Remove old and wilted flowers and leaves, wrap the boxes with fleece or foil and cover the soil with leaves or fir brushwood. Ideally, the flower boxes should be placed close to a house wall. This way the plants are better protected from wind and weather.

Bring non-hardy plants indoors for wintering. Winter gardens, stairwells or the garage are particularly suitable.

When do I winterize my garden?


The ideal time to winterize your garden is mid-October to early November. However, be sure to winterize your garden before the first frost, otherwise some plants will be at risk of frost damage.

How do I winterize my garden?


Different plants have different rules for winterizing you. Some plants can be overwintered outside without hesitation, others must be moved to winter quarters. Furniture, garden tools, and greenhouses and garden sheds also need to be prepared for the winter months so they will be ready for use next spring.

How do I winterize the palm tree?


Insulate tub palms with several layers of bubble wrap or coconut matting, about a hand’s width beyond the tub. Protect the trunk with a special trunk protection mat and place the tub on a Styrofoam or wooden board. Place the palm tree close to a house wall. This will protect the plant from wind and rain.

More frost-sensitive palm species must be overwintered indoors. For planted specimens, protect the roots by covering the soil around the palm with brushwood, leaves, mulch or straw. Loosely tie palm fronds together at the top with coir or sisal tape. In extreme sub-zero temperatures, wrap the fronds additionally with jute. The trunk should also be wrapped with jute or straw mat.

How do I prepare my garden for winter?


There is some work to be done around the house and garden before the winter months. Among other things, this includes winterizing container and outdoor plants, depending on the type of plant and its requirements. In addition, garden furniture, tools and other garden utensils must be cleaned and moved to their frost-protected winter quarters. Also, check the condition of your garden and greenhouse and make any repairs.

Do you own a pool? You need to winterize it, too.

Which foliage is suitable for winter protection?
Foliage is the ideal winter protection for flower beds or as additional insulation for the soil of potted plants. However, make absolutely sure that the foliage is absolutely dry. Otherwise, the plants are at risk of rotting underneath.

Author

  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/james-jones-436784297/ gardeninguru@outlook.com Jones James

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