Winterizing your garden

Snow for the Holidays

In October and November there are a few small tasks to do to help your garden survive the winter and make your property beautiful for the spring.

  • Plant your spring-flowering bulbs. Daffodils and Narcissus should go in first because they need time to root in the fall. Squirrels will leave these alone as they are poisonous.
  • The remainder of your bulbs can be planted later, right up until ground freeze-up, when squirrels aren’t as busy digging in the garden.
  • Empty clay or ceramic pots and store them safely inside. If they are left outside through the freeze-thaw cycles there is a good chance they will crack.
  • Concrete or ceramic birdbaths can be turned upside down so the water cannot collect in it. This is not necessary if you intend to use a birdbath heater that provides birds with a constant source of fresh water all winter long.
  • Turn the bowl(s) of your fountain upside down as well or cover it with a tarp.
  • Clean, oil, sharpen, and repair all your garden tools before storing. Rub linseed oil onto wooden handles to prevent cracks.
  • Ensure sprayers are emptied and washed out with hot soapy water.
  • Empty the gas tank on your lawnmower, gas trimmer or add a gas preservative.


  • Make the last cut of the season shorter than usual. The leaves will stick less to a short lawn.
  • Rake all leaves off the lawn before snowfall.


  • Remove all annuals from garden beds and containers. Decaying plants in the garden provide a perfect nesting site for insects to overwinter.
  • Cut back perennials close to ground level in late fall (except for the Ornamental Grasses, Lavender, and Russian Sage which are all pruned back in early spring).
  • Compost all this material.


Protect tree trunks from assorted rodents, rabbits and deer that enjoy eating the bark of shrubs and trees like Crab Apple and fruit trees during winter by placing a spiral plastic tree guard around them.


  • To keep the branches of your Upright Junipers and Cedars erect, purchase clear plastic mesh or green twine that is spiraled down to the full length of the evergreen.
  • Trees that are damaged from the weight of snow and ice will not snap back into place in April and will need to be pruned off.
Pink Azaleas
  • Rhododendrons as well as Holly, Oregon Grape, Mountain-laurel, and Japanese Pieris are prone to windburn. They should initially be planted in a sheltered location. If this was not possible and your plant has a lot of brown, burnt leaves in spring due to windburn or sun scald you will need to take precautions for the winter months.
  • Surround your Rhododendrons with burlap stapled to sturdy garden stakes.
  • Leave the top of the tent open and place a thick layer of leaves or chopped conifer branches to help insulate the root zone and preserve moisture to the soil.

rose bush


  • Clean up all the dead leaves mid to late November and put out with the garbage
  • Trim roses back to about 1 m (36”).
  • Surround the base of your Floribunda, Hybrid Tea, Grandiflora, or English Roses with an adjustable rose collar. Sink it about 2.5 cm (1”) into the ground where it will firmly freeze into place.
  • Pack a mixture that’s half garden soil and half composted cattle manure into the collar. The hut can also be dug 2.5 cm (1”) into the soil or a heavy rock can be placed on top.
  • Climbing Roses do not need to be pruned back at all but pack Garden Soil and manure solidly against the base (called “hilling”).
  • Shrub roses generally don’t need extra protection but a bit of hilling wouldn’t hurt.

Pink beautiful water lily flower in green pond


  • Do not allow falling leaves to accumulate in your pond through the fall. Rotting leaves at the bottom are a major cause of algae.
  • Place a mesh tarp over the top of your pond to catch the falling leaves.
  • Hardy aquatic plants can be placed at the bottom of the pond to overwinter.
  • Tropical water lilies need to be removed completely, trimmed back, stored in a cool basement, and kept covered with wet burlap. Do not let them dry out.
  • A pre-formed pond should not be emptied. The weight of the water will keep the pond firmly in the ground and prevent it from popping out. The pond can be drained in the spring and refilled. Be sure to remove any equipment such as pumps, jets, lights, and the transformer. Wipe them clean and store in a dry place.
  • If you plan to over-winter fish in your water garden, ensure the ice is kept open in one area to allow the methane gas to escape.