Hello, hello to all you garden lovers, putting your gardens to bed for the winter. It’s been an action packed design season here at Dargan Landscape Architects, and we are looking forward to slowing down a little bit as the holidays approach.

We have so much to share with you all as we settle in to these colder months after such an exciting design year, but first things first:

Let’s talk putting the garden to bed for the winter.

Read on for our checklist for getting your garden all cozy for Winter…

Putting the Garden to Bed

Step 1, Play your garden some Enya and give it a warm glass of milk- no just kidding, that’s for you after you’re done!

#1: Leave the deadheads on your perennials, especially hydrangeas!

While you want to remove seedbeds that are diseased, leave most of the foliage on your perennial plants so that birds and other animals can enjoy the seeds throughout the fall and winter. Leaving them on also protects the plants, because for plants with hollow stems, if you cut off the heads the stems can fill with water and can freeze thus killing the plant.

Many insects that are vital to your garden and the local ecosystem, like native bees, hibernate in these hollow stems. (If you must cut, place them somewhere in the back of the garden so they can continue to hibernate, and pollinate your garden come spring)

Not to mention many dried flower heads, like hydrangea, add winter interest to the landscape. So let those deadheads stay, and leave your garden critters a beautiful winter feast and fortress!

#2 Prune roses, blueberries, and evergreens, and deck the halls!

Of all the plants in your garden, roses are the most vulnerable to disease. If you have any plants infected by rose rosette, act quickly to remove them. To protect your roses, cut the plant in half and remove all fallen leaves.  When it comes to your blueberry bushes, cut out the old wood and remove crossover and low angled canes.

December is also a good time to prune evergreens (avoid pruning plants that flower in spring, you will be cutting off the future buds and preventing them from blooming).

Put your evergreen cutting to use. You can use the fragrant, freshly cut greenery to decorate your home. There’s nothing like fresh pine or holly branches in a wreath or a centerpiece to get you in the holiday spirit!

#3 Remove invasive weeds that may have taken hold over the growing season.

Now is the perfect time to remove some of these feisty plants. Dig them up and get rid of them, and not into the compost- most invasive weeds remain viable in a compost heap.

Many of these, like blackberry vines, also make lovely wreath components, and have been used in Appalachian folk traditions for a long time.

#4 Harvest your compost, and put your plants to bed with a snack.

Material in your compost bin from over the summer is probably finished and ready to go. You can use this to top up your garden beds, especially in areas you know need a little extra nutrition. This will put them to bed with a snack, so they can have a boost in Spring.

You can also harvest some of your Fall leaves to add to your fresh compost pile. You can learn more about composting with our free guide.

#5 Tuck them in with good mulch.

Mulching isn’t just for moisture retention, it’s also for protecting your plants from the cold! Especially those less cold hardy plants in the garden, they really appreciate a nice warm layer of mulch to put them to bed for winter.

We love using dark, partially decomposed hardwood bark mulch. Mulch that is partially decomposed already, is going to break down into garden food faster, and will not leach nutrients from the soil as it continues its decomposition process. (Fresh mulch leaches nutrients from the soil as it begins its decomposition process).

You can mix in some ground up fall leaves too, they make a nice mulch amendment!

#6 Give your tools some love.

Most of us are too busy during the growing season to clean and care for our tools- it’s hard to keep up with when everything is in full swing! Now as things slow down, is the perfect time to prep tools for next season.

Remove any dirt and debris- if there’s rust remove it with some sandpaper or a wire brush. You can sharpen your shovels with a basic mill file and your pruners with a whetstone. Finally, rub the surfaces of your tools with an oiled rag coated in light machine oil. This will help seal the metal from oxygen and extend your tools’ lives for another year.

#7 Plan ahead for Springtime

Winter is the perfect time to plan ahead for springtime blooms. You can take stock of what was a hit, what you’d like to differently, and prepare for the season ahead. We can’t wait to settle in after these last fall plantings, to teach our 2023 Winter Garden Design Immersion! We will spend 11 weeks prepping new master plans for our gardens, so we can make some serious magic come Springtime.

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