Clean and bundle up your landscape for winter

As we trade in our warm-weather clothes for boots, scarves and winter coats, it’s also time to clean and bundle up our landscapes for the winter. Use this checklist to help you prepare your yard and garden for the cold weather ahead.

– Water your plants thoroughly before the ground freezes. This is especially important for evergreens, new plantings and any stressed plants.

– Drain and store your hoses, watering wands and other watering devices in a shed or garage once your plants are set for the winter. You’ll extend their life and make them easier to locate next spring.

– Clean, organize and store shovels, rakes and other gardening tools so they’ll be ready to use and easy to find as soon as next year’s gardening season begins.

– Empty terra cotta, glazed and other pots, which are subject to cracking when the soil freezes and expands. Store your pots out of harm’s way until next spring.

– Move fertilizers and pesticides to a secure location, safe from pets and children. Store granules and powders in a dry spot and liquids in a frost-free place so they’ll be effective for many seasons to come.

– Safely store unplanted perennials, trees and shrubs for winter. Dig a trench in a vacant part of your garden, sink your pots in the trench and cover them with soil. Another option for your plants is to group them in a sheltered location and cover them with woodchips or surround them with bales of straw or bags of potting mix. The added insulation protects the roots and increases their chance of survival.

– Move any remaining plants and container gardens into an unheated garage. Set them on a wooden board and surround them with packing peanuts or bags of potting mix for extra insulation. Water the pots any time the soil is thawed and dry.

– Share the load and save your back. Asking for help when lifting and transporting larger pots, tools and garden art can make the job go faster and ease the strain on your back.

– Use a PotLifter or similar device that makes wrangling and moving heavy or bulky items easier. You can also put an old garden sled, wagon or garden cart to use to help move items from the garden into storage.

– Create windbreaks or loosely wrap broadleaf and newly planted evergreens with burlap or landscape fabric. This helps prevent browning caused by winter winds and the sun. If you’re staking the fabric into the ground, though, make sure to use leverage to your advantage; a longer handled hammer or sledge will mean greater force applied to the stake with less effort on your part.

– Protect fruit trees and newly planted trees and shrubs from hungry wildlife. Surround the plants with a 4-foot-high cylinder of hardware cloth to keep rabbits at bay. Sink the wire cloth 4 to 6 inches into the ground to prevent voles from feeding on the trunk.

– If you prefer, apply repellents before the animals start feeding and reapply as needed and recommended on the label. Once they start dining on your landscape, it’s harder to keep animals away.

-Cut the grass, recycle fall leaves, and improve the soil with a pass of the lawn mower. Shred leaves and leave them on the lawn as you mow this fall. As long as you can see the grass through the leaf pieces, the lawn will be fine. As the leaves break down they add organic matter to the soil.

-Once the ground freezes, cover tender perennials and bulbs, or those that were planted late in the fall, with evergreen branches or straw. This keeps the ground frozen, preventing frost heaving and early sprouting.

Your gardening efforts now will pay off next spring. You’ll spend less time and money replacing winter-damaged plants, tools and containers. Plus, you’ll have easy access to the equipment and supplies you need to get an earlier start in the garden.

Melinda Myers is the author of more than 20 gardening books and is the host of The Great Courses’ How to Grow Anything DVD series. Her website,, offers gardening tips and videos.