Gardening season is winding down, but before we head indoors for some hot chocolate and pumpkin pie - let's take one last look at our garden and get it all tucked in for winter! Take a look at our top 15 garden cleanup to-dos below, and print out our downloadable checklist (so you don't miss anything!)
1. Clean up your annuals & finished plants from the previous seasons
It's a great idea to remove your annuals from the garden (or pots) when they are finished for the season. You don't want pests to invade and lay eggs on the plant's leaves or stalks. Pull the annuals out of the soil and put them in the compost or garbage.
2. Prune & clean up your perennials, shrubs & trees
Your perennials, shrubs and trees would love a good once-over before the cold weather hits! Prune back unruly or dead branches on shrubs and trees to trim them into shape again. Cut off the spent blooms and dead leaves from your perennial plants in your garden to keep them from getting diseases or fungus. Some perennials like to be cut right down to the ground in the winter, regrowing next Spring. This type of garden cleanup really makes a big difference!
3. Rake leaves & use them around your plant's roots & in the compost
Too many leaves on the lawn? I know it's a pain, but they are actually really useful! Use these leaves around the base of your plants to create nutritious mulch that will feed your plants during the winter and also keep them insulated. Leaves are also fantastic for the compost, helping you create super-healthy plant food for next year.
4. Clean up your garden debris.
After you've pruned your shrubs and pulled your annuals, make sure you don't leave any debris piles in the yard. These are attractive to pests like bugs, slugs or rats. If you’ve had a vegetable or fruit crop this year, then clear out the old plants and any fallen fruit from your yard. It will just rot and attract bugs or rodents. If you are feeling energetic, it’s a great time to till your vegetable garden and add some compost for next year!
5. Protect sensitive plants, saplings and shrubs with burlap or material
Not all plants are happy with the winter weather! Use burlap or heavy material (not plastic) to wrap around your plants, saplings and shrubs that may be harmed by freezing weather. Use twine to secure the fabric around the plants. These are usually tender, warmer weather plants that aren't protected by walls or overhangs.
6. Mulch around the base of your plants to protect them from the cold
Adding a thick layer of mulch around the base of your plants will help protect the roots from the coldest weather and let them remain safe and dormant during the winter. It also helps to stop weed growth and retains water much better than soil. When it starts to break down in the spring, it will add valuable organic material to your garden beds as well.
7. Empty unused pots, clean them, and stack them upside down
Once you've cleaned up your container gardens for the season, you may find you have a few empty pots lying around. Make sure to clean them up, scrub them with soap and water, to get rid of any pests or insect eggs on the inside or outside of your pots. Then stack them upside down in your garage, potting shed, or under an overhang, to help them survive the winter.
8. Empty your garden hose and put it away to prevent freezing
Most gardens don't need watering in the winter, so you can hang up that garden hose for the season when doing your garden cleanup! Make sure to empty it of all water, to prevent it from cracking when the weather becomes freezing, and then store it under an overhang or in the garage. You don't want to have to buy a new garden hose next year!
9. Clean those garden tools!
Your garden tools are an investment that you need to protect, so don't put them away dirty or rusty. Clean them off, oil them if needed, and keep them in a dry place. This will save you money next year, when you don’t have to replace them, and can buy more plants instead!
10. Plant cover crops on unused garden beds
Cover crops are an often overlooked but great idea for your garden beds during the fall and winter season. The roots of these temporary plants help to keep your soil in place during the winter rains, and in the Spring you can turn over your garden beds and let the organic matter from the cover crops add to the nutrients in your soil! Red Clover, Fava Bean and Alfalfa are great cover crops for the BC west coast region.
11. Feed your lawn for the winter with high phosphorous fertilizer
Keep the roots of your lawn happy all winter with a quick feeding of high phosphorous fertilizer now, before the ground freezes. This will help your lawn to return in the Spring with added vigour! It's also a great idea to give your grass one last cut, keeping it short in the winter will help to avoid pest and fungus attacks.
12. Clean out your nesting boxes
The birds are done nesting for the year when fall rolls around, so make sure you take down your nesting boxes and give them a good cleaning during your garden cleanup spree! Pull out all the old nest materials, as well as anything else the birds left behind. Give them a scrub with soapy water to avoid any bacteria growing that could harm next year's babies. Then store them until Spring (or you can hang them up all winter if they are under an overhang or in a protected area).
13. Feed the birds!
We may not be out in the garden all winter to enjoy the bird songs, but we should still feed them during the cold season, as this is when they can use the nutrition the most! In addition to hanging feeders, consider leaving some of your plants out for them to munch on. Plants such as sunflowers, coneflower, black-eyed Susans, and anything with berries or seeds (such as grasses) will provide a feast for them and a wildlife show for you! (Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant).
14. Bring in garden furniture and accents
Plastic garden furniture (or even nice wooden pieces) will last much longer if it's stored in the garage or shed during the winter months. You probably won't be using it anyway, so why not include it in your garden cleanup? If you have any delicate ornaments (or your gnomes don't like the snow) then bring those inside as well. You can redecorate your outside spaces next Spring!
15. Take note!
If you haven’t already, use our free Printable Garden Journal to record all the important info about your garden this year, as well as start some planning for next year’s garden! Make a note about the annuals that you loved, the seedlings that grew, how well your vegetables produced, and what you are thinking about doing next summer. Don't assume you'll remember...Spring is a long time away!
Enjoy your last few weeks outdoors before turning to indoor pursuits and maybe even starting to plan out next year's garden!