The colder weather and rain has arrived, fellow West Coast Gardeners, and it's time to say goodbye to our gardens until next Spring. Before you retire to indoor pursuits, it's a good idea to take one last look at your yard and garden to make sure it's all ready for the next season!
Here is our top ten list for your winter garden cleanup, so you can relax for the holidays. We've also included a handy printable checklist at the bottom of this blog post, just so you don't forget anything.
1. Clean up your annuals & finished plants from the previous seasons
When your summer and fall annuals are finished and done, it's a good practice to remove them from the garden. Insects and pests can leave eggs on your plants leaves and stalks, so you want to get rid of them by pulling them out of the soil and putting 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.
3. Rake leaves & use them around your plant's roots & in the compost
Leaves from nearby trees can seem like a pain to rake and clean up, but they're 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 and sharpen your garden tools, then store them for winter
Prepare for the Spring gardening fever by cleaning and sharpening your tools before you put them away for winter. During your winter garden cleanup, give them a good cleaning, remove any rust (sandpaper or steel wool is great for this task), and make any minor repairs now, so you can jump right into gardening when the weather warms up again.
5. Plant cover crops on unused garden beds
Cover crops are a 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.
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 annuals from all your container gardens, you may find you have a few empty pots lying around. Make sure to clean them up, 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! 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.
9. Protect sensitive plants, saplings and shrubs with burlap or material
When the wind blows, and the weather snows, don't let it hurt your garden! 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.
10. 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.
To help you remember all of these important tips, we've created a printable check list for your winter garden cleanup! Click on the image to the right, then save or print. Have fun getting your garden ready for the winter season and making sure everything is tucked in, cleaned up and safely stowed away.