Tips & Advies
a potted plant in the snow
9 MIN 10 Dec
Last update: 18 Dec 2023

How to Prepare Your Garden for Winter

Winter is coming! Get winter care tips for perennials, trees, shrubs, and more. Survive the colder months & come back stronger in the spring.

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Are you getting ready to pack away your gardening tools? Maybe you’re looking out of your kitchen window and wondering if you should tidy up your tired-looking winter garden or leave it til next year. The answer, of course, is yes — there are many ways of preparing your garden for winter, ensuring it emerges strong and vibrant in the spring.

Table of contents:
Show all
  • Understanding the Importance of Winter Preparation
  • The Basics of Garden Winter Prep
  • Preparing your garden for winter – advanced tips
  • Beyond the Garden: Winter Care for Tools and Equipment
  • Looking Ahead: Planning for Next Year’s Garden
  • Preparing your lawn for winter
  • Preparing your garden for winter – shrubs and bushes
  • Preparing your outdoor pots for winter
  • Preparing your veg patch for winter

This comprehensive guide provides a thorough approach to garden winter prep, ensuring plants flourish and survive – even in the coldest months.

Ready? Let’s get started.

Understanding the Importance of Winter Preparation

a frosty winter garden with a path running through it

Winter, with its freezing temperatures and harsh weather conditions, can have a detrimental effect on your plants.

And without proper preparation, you could see a significant reduction in your garden’s health and productivity come spring.

So, don’t leave your garden looking untidy and unloved — get out there and prepare.

Why Prepare Your Garden for Winter?

  • Plant Protection: Many plants are sensitive to the cold and can die if exposed to freezing temperatures. Therefore, appropriate winter preparation can help protect these vulnerable plants.
  • Soil Health: Winter’s rainy, cold weather can cause soil erosion, which often leads to nutrient depletion as the rain washes away your soil’s nourishment. So, you can help maintain your soil’s health with the proper winter preparation.
  • Pest Prevention: Winter is a prime time for pests and diseases because they exploit your plants’ vulnerability during dormancy. Proper garden preparation can help prevent these issues before they become a problem.
  • Spring Preparation: By preparing your garden for winter, you’re also setting the stage for a successful spring. Your efforts now will make it easier to get your garden up and running when the weather warms up.

Let’s look into each of these in more detail.

The Basics of Garden Winter Prep

Snow-covered back garden

When it comes to gardening in winter, you should follow a few critical steps. These include:

Clearing Your Garden

Start by removing dead plants, weeds, and debris from your flowerbeds, pots, and terraces. This ensures your garden is clean and ready for the winter season.

Not only does this remove potential hiding places for pests, but it also prevents diseases from overwintering in your garden.

Testing Your Soil

Understanding your soil’s health is crucial for successful gardening.

Use a testing kit to check your soil’s pH and nutrient levels. And if necessary, consider adding organic matter or fertilisers to improve your soil’s vitality.

Or if your lawn turf is showing signs of acidity, add Lawn Lime to help gradually raise the pH. This helps make the soil less hospitable to weeds and more accommodating to your grass plants.

Adding Mulch

Mulch serves multiple purposes in winter gardening. It helps insulate the ground and prevent soil erosion. And as the mulch decomposes, it adds fresh nutrients to the soil.

Additionally, in the case of a warm, dry winter, mulch helps your soil retain its moisture.

So, apply a generous layer of organic mulch, such as shop-bought or homemade compost, leaf mould, or wood chips, to your garden beds before the first frost.

Protecting Vulnerable Plants

Some plants are particularly vulnerable to winter conditions.

These include:

  • annuals
  • tender perennials
  • tropicals
  • fruit and veg
  • plants with soft wood
  • Summer-flowering plants
  • potted plants
The Garden Doctor:
Depending on the plant type, consider moving them indoors. Alternatively, use garden cloches, polytunnels, or horticultural fleeces for protection, or apply an extra thick layer of mulch for insulation.

Preparing your garden for winter – advanced tips

a fatsia japonica winter flowering plant

Once you’ve covered the basics, you can move on to more advanced garden winter prep techniques.

Planting for Winter

Some plants thrive in winter conditions, and having a good mix of summer and winter plants helps keep your garden more attractive all year round.

Winter plants add beauty to your garden during the colder months while improving soil health and providing food for local wildlife.

Some of the most reliable winter plants include:

  • Winter-flowering cherry
  • Cornus sanguinea
  • Fatsia japonica
  • Hellebore
  • Winter honeysuckle
  • Daphnes
  • Mahonia
  • Calluna
  • Eranthis
  • Winter heath
  • Winter jasmine
  • Holly
  • Hazel
  • Irises
  • Primrose
  • Dahlia
  • Cyclamen
  • Aubretia
  • Plantain lilies

So, as you can see, there’s a plethora of beautiful, winter-flowering plants that can brighten up your otherwise hibernating garden. And many of these grow as happily in pots as in the ground.

Creating Windbreaks

Strong winds cause significant damage to your garden.

So, create windbreaks or shelterbelts to help protect your plants during harsh winter weather. These can be made from various materials, including fencing, hedges, or even a row of trees.

Improving Drainage

compost in the yard

Waterlogged soil can be harmful to many plants. And clay soil, particularly, is prone to flooding because it retains water, holding it around plant roots, which can cause rot.

Improving your garden’s drainage is easier than you might think and is often a case of addressing the heaviness of clay soil.

One of the best ways to improve drainage in clay soil is adding organic matter, such as compost or horticultural sand. This dissipates the soil’s heaviness and enhances the structure, allowing water to pass through and away from plants’ roots.

In the case of improving the topsoil of your lawn, you’ll want to topdress it. Find out how to topdress your lawn in our expert’s guide.

Pruning

It’s not too late to prune deciduous plants in winter — these are plants that lose their leaves in autumn. These plants send their food reserves to their roots after losing their leaves — indeed, pruning these plants in summer can remove the food they store in their leaves.

So, prune your deciduous plants before you store your tools for the winter. This ensures they have ample resources to spring back to life in spring, balancing their roots with fresh top growth.

Beyond the Garden: Winter Care for Tools and Equipment

Gardening tools spread out on a table

Your garden isn’t the only thing that needs preparing for winter. Your tools and equipment also need some TLC to ensure they’re ready for the next gardening season.

Cleaning and Sharpening Tools

Clean your gardening tools thoroughly, removing any soil or plant material. Sharpen any devices that require it, and oil them to prevent rust.

Servicing Machinery

Consider a professional service for cleaning, lubricating parts, and sharpening cutting surfaces for larger equipment, like mowers and strimmers.

This ensures they’re in top working order for the next gardening season.

Proper Storage

Store your tools and equipment in a dry place, protected from the elements, like a garden shed. This prevents rust and keeps them safe from the elements.

Looking Ahead: Planning for Next Year’s Garden

Beautiful spring garden

While you’re gardening in winter, it’s also the perfect time to start planning for the following year.

Consider the following:

Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is a crucial aspect of maintaining soil health. It prevents the build-up of disease and pest populations and can help improve soil fertility.

So, start planning your crop rotation strategy for the upcoming year. This includes fruit and veg plants as well as flower bed annuals.

Seed Collection

Collect seeds from your favourite plants to sow next year. They should be ripe and dry enough to pick and store by the first few weeks of winter.

Store them in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to plant.

Preparing your lawn for winter

Grass typically goes dormant in the depths of winter, so there’s no longer any need to mow. However, if you’re reading this before the temperature has dropped below 10ºC, then it’s not too late to fertilise your turf.

The ideal winter preparation for a lawn is:

  • A final cut
  • Fertilisation
  • Overseeding (before the temperature drops below 10ºC)
  • Removing fallen debris

We have a step-by-step guide to preparing your lawn for winter for more details.

Preparing your garden for winter – shrubs and bushes

Prune dead, diseased, or broken branches on your shrubs and bushes, but avoid heavy pruning, as this can stimulate new growth that may not survive the winter.

Wrap delicate shrubs in burlap to protect them from snow and wind damage.

Finally, add mulch around the base of the shrubs to insulate the roots from extreme cold.

Preparing your outdoor pots for winter

Move pots in exposed areas to more sheltered locations; group them together for added protection.

Terra-cotta or glazed containers can crack over the winter, so wrap these pots in horticultural fleece to prevent additional moisture absorption. However, you can leave plastic and fibreglass pots as they are.

Preparing your veg patch for winter

Remove all your spent fruiting or veg plants, disposing of them in your garden compost. However, avoid composting diseased plants to prevent the spread of diseases.

Add compost or well-rotted manure to replenish soil nutrients. And consider planting cover crops like rye or clover; these will protect the soil from erosion, improve its structure, and add valuable nutrients.

Finally, mulch the beds with straw or leaves to protect any overwintering crops while suppressing weeds.

How can I prepare my garden for winter?

Harvest and store vegetables before frost hits and manage your herbs; hardy herbs can stay, while others may require additional protection. Cover your garden beds with compost or manure, and add a layer of straw or mulch to prevent soil erosion and weed growth. Remove blown plants and compost them.

Should I clear my garden for the winter?


Yes, clearing your garden for winter is essential. It helps to prevent diseases, pests, and weeds from overwintering in your garden. Additionally, it provides a clean slate for next year’s growth, enhances soil health, and helps to safeguard your perennials. Therefore, a thorough winter garden cleanup is highly recommended.

What to do to prepare a vegetable garden for winter?

Remove all dead vegetation and rotten fruit from your veg patch to prevent overwintering diseases and pests. Apply a layer of compost and mulch to suppress weeds and protect the soil. Lastly, gather fallen leaves for future mulching and composting.

Any questions?

We hope you have all the information you need to make your winter a fruitful one in the garden. But if you have any questions, send us an email.

Or check out our excellent Help & Advice section, providing hints, tips, and expert insights into all things lawn and garden care. 

Thanks for reading! 

Louis Hooft
Founder & Lawn expert
Introducing Louis Hooft, the founder of MOOWY and your reliable expert. With a profound love for stunning lawns and extensive experience in garden maintenance, Louis is here to assist garden enthusiasts in achieving a greener and livelier outdoors than ever before. Count on Louis for invaluable tips, clever tricks, and top-notch products to make your garden flourish!
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