This early cold snap is a reminder that winter is here to stay—for a lot longer. Hopefully your bulbs are planted and your garden is winterized in time, but if not, here are some tips to protect your garden from polar vortexes, snowfall and burrowing critters.
Clean & Prep
Tidy up your garden for winter by trimming back dry stems, removing pests, slimy leaves and weeds, and cutting off dead foliage. Clean out all annual plants after the season to prevent harmful insects and disease from festering. If you compost, these remnants will make a great addition to your pile. Cut back your perennials to four to six inches tall once they’re dead.
Don’t cut back all of your plants, however. Sunflowers, thistles, coneflowers and others with unique seed heads look great in winter and provide a safe haven for butterfly eggs and bird nests!
Compost & Cover
Leaves, food waste, trimmings, straw and grass make for a hearty compost to layer on top of your garden to make your soil nutrient-rich come spring. Spread 1–6 inches of compost over your garden before winter takes hold.
Layer with Mulch
Just how we bundle up in layers and scarves, your garden benefits from a coat of mulch. It helps regulate soil temperate and keeps the roots of your plants nourished, as well as prevents weeds and erosion. Just make sure to remove weeds and leaves before laying 2–4 inches of mulch around the base of your plants. Be careful! Too much mulch can lead to nesting animals, rot or disease. Roses can have a deeper mulch base. Don’t mulch too early—around the first freeze should work best. You can also use boughs from your holiday plants and decorations.
Once your garden is winter-proofed, take some time to clean, organize and store your tools so that you’re ready to go at the first sign of spring. This is also the perfect time to grab seed catalogs or log into Pinterest to start dreaming up next year’s purchases and plants! Happy planning!
Still blue about the end of green? Spring can be in reach with discounted tickets to the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, available online now! We can’t wait to see you March 14–22, 2015 at Navy Pier!