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Top 4 Ways to Prepare your Garden for Winter

Updated on April 20, 2023

You are wrapping up your fun summer. Vacations, the cabin, the boat, the trails, the baseball games, and the swimming pool; are now memories of the summer of 2022.  As you re-engage your normal routine,  you should also be preparing your landscape, lawn, and gardens for winter. Your lawn company may have stayed on top of the mowing and lawn fertilization. But your landscape beds, perennials, shrubs, and trees require their own special attention.

Like most things, when landscape maintenance lapses, issues compound. This leaves you with beds full of weeds, overgrown shrubs that are hard to bring back to shape, and perennials that lose their luster. What you spent time or money installing to beautify your home, can become a burden and an embarrassment. Staying on top of your landscape maintenance is simple but not easy, but proper maintenance is FAR cheaper than replacement. If you start early and do the right things to keep it healthy, the serviceable life of your landscape can be two or three times as long as a landscape that is not well maintained.  Below are our best tips for fall maintenance of your gardens and landscape.

Garden mulch around flower

1) Clean out your garden beds

Fall Garden Cleanup is an impactful chore and should be a top priority for the health of your gardens. You can start as early as late September and continue until the ground is covered with snow. Cut down appropriate perennials (leaving ornamental grasses), trim non-flowering deciduous shrubs, remove weeds and annuals in the garden beds, then clean out fallen leaves and other debris. By doing this work now, you’ll save tons of time in the spring. Leaves left all winter will become matted down making them very difficult to remove. 

2) Refresh your mulch

Contrary to popular belief, mulching can be safely done in the fall. If you are choosing a natural or shredded bark mulch, doing the installation immediately after your fall cleanup can put you one step ahead on your spring chores. This mulch will easily last the next growing season, longer if you choose to install it a bit thicker (4+inches). Fresh mulch will help insulate your plants through the winter, provide vital nutrients, and provide a home to many beneficial critters. The exception is if you plan to use dyed mulch. In this case, we recommend waiting until spring. This will keep the bright color as fresh as possible for as long as possible. See our selection of mulch and other bulk materials for pricing and delivery options. 

rake garden mulch

3) Schedule your tree pruning

Don’t forget about your trees! They are a vital part of your garden’s ecosystem. Winter dormancy is a great time to prune or remove trees. When your landscape is dormant, you can safely get equipment to places that you can’t in the growing season. The impact on your trees will be minimal since they are dormant and all of their sugar reserves are safely stored underground. This helps them rebound quickly in the spring and heal any wounds caused by pruning. Good arborists know how to identify deadwood even when there are no leaves on the trees. Also worth noting, companies will often discount tree care services in the fall to secure winter work. So planning ahead can also save you some money.  

4) Fertilize

Fall is arguably the most important time to fertilize your lawn. It’s a way to revitalize your grass after a long, stressful summer. It will help your lawn develop and repair the root structure and result in better performance in the spring. Apply your fertilizer about 3 weeks before the ground freezes (mid-October) with no heavy rain in the forecast. Rain will only wash out your fertilizer. Fall mornings are prone to heavy dew. This will be ample water to help your lawn absorb the fertilizer. There are many types of fertilizer formulated for fall application and your local garden center will have appropriate options. One example we recommend is Bonide Duraturf Winterizer.

You should also be sure to properly fertilize your trees and shrubs. The process for this is different than your lawn since trees and shrubs have roots that go much deeper. Deep root fertilization is the process of injecting a slow-release fertilizer into the root zone of the tree or shrub to ensure proper uptake. Deep Root Fertilization of your trees and woody shrubs can be done at any time in the growing season, but it’s convenient to add it to the list of chores for the fall.  A good 12-month slow-release fertilizer will provide all the nutrients your trees and shrubs need throughout the entire year. This is something that must be done by a professional with the right equipment and knowledge to get the job done right. However, most people are surprised at how affordable deep root fertilization services are. Especially considering it’s one of the best things you can do for the long-term health and beauty of your trees and shrubs. 

Finding professional help

If you do everything on this list, your lawn, garden, trees, and shrubs will emerge happy and healthy next spring. And you can rest easy all winter knowing your spring clean-up will be much easier. Most of the tasks on this list can be accomplished by a homeowner, but you may also wish to find a qualified garden maintenance service to save you time and potentially costly mistakes. If you live in the Rochester, MN area, Sargent’s provides all the products and services your garden and landscape needs. Our typical all-inclusive fall cleanup costs around $750-$1000. If you are outside our service area, we recommend avoiding lawn care companies. Far too often these companies are not properly trained in garden maintenance. They do not know what plants to cut back and what plants to leave. Find a reputable garden center in your area and inquire about what services they offer. With proper maintenance, the beauty and lifespan of your landscape will be greatly increased. 

Schedule a FREE consultation with a Sargent’s Garden Pro today.