Preparing for Winter
As winter approaches and temperatures drop, less and less time will be spent in the garden. However, you can ensure your garden will last the winter through a careful and thoughtful process called winterizing.
So, while we may long for the fresh dew of spring and the long sunny days of summer, let’s learn how to best prepare for winter.
The fall months of September, October, and November are best for winterizing because the weather is not too cold for the work required. Preparing the garden for winter will reduce the amount of time spent outside in heavy clothing handling cold temperatures and potentially frozen ground.
Before you consider our recommended steps, consider your garden and its needs:
● If this is your first year of winter with a garden, the steps listed below will be great for you!
● For more experienced gardeners, you know winter is the toughest season of the year.
Maybe you already have a checklist of tasks you complete before every winter. Let this list serve as a refresher!
1. Vegetables and Fruits
Vegetables and fruits start this list because they are incredibly susceptible to spoiling and damage from wintery conditions. However, not all vegetables and fruits are created equal. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, some will need strict storage conditions and some might not be worth storing.
Know your vegetables and learn what they need. For example, carrots have an expected eight-month shelf-life while lettuce lasts only a week. Storing your goods will help them last longer to avoid spoiling.
2. Flower and Garden Beds
Flowers and garden beds are next on the list as some are able to withstand changing seasons such as perennials. They will return next Spring as long as they are protected.
Start by looking up a plant’s hardiness rating through the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map. This map will help you understand your region, the coldest temperatures you experience, and what plants can survive winters there.
The next step is insulation. Consider insulation options for plant beds that protect from harsh winds and cold temperatures. Swanson’s Nursery recommends various types of insulation ranging from burlap, old blankets, straw, or any material that holds warmth.
Finally, adding compost to plants will provide them with an extra source of nutrients as the soil starts to freeze.
3. Trees and Bushes
Now, we move on to the more structurally sound parts of your garden that will need some support for winter: trees and bushes.
Newly planted and young trees and bushes will need extra care as their branches will be more prone to damage from wind and snow. Attaching stakes will give trees and bushes an added source of strength to withstand conditions.
Similar to plants, insulation will work for trees and bushes too. Burlap works particularly well near the base. As always, mind the force with which you are reinforcing or insulating trees and bushes. They are prone to damage from the weather, you can damage them too!
You may not know it, but birds help gardens by way of pest management, natural fertilizer, and flower pollination. Not all birds will migrate when winter arrives, some, like the cardinal, will stay as they can handle cold weather.
Just like humans, birds need food and water to survive. As the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service explains, well-hydrated birds fueled by high-fat and high-calorie foods will be better equipped for the winter. They will be able to maintain warm body temperatures and move as needed to avoid predators.
If you’ve ever weather-stripped your house’s windows to protect from the cold, you know the benefits of that added insulation. This can be done for birdhouses too as they will be vulnerable to the wind and cold. Since birdhouses provide security from predators and warmth, they are vital to a bird’s survival through winter.
Staying Warm By Staying Prepared
As you start looking forward to winter, we hope this blog helps push you in the right direction. Whether it serves as a reminder for tasks you were already planning on doing or teaches you new ideas for winterizing, stay warm and stay prepared!