Preparing Your Garden For Winter

Monday, September 28th, 2015

As summer and fall come to a close, it's time to think about what do with your declining garden. If done correctly, some plants will survive the winter and regrow the next spring. Here are some tips on cutting back a garden for winter.

Preparing Your Garden For Winter - Image 1

When to Cut Back the Garden: The ideal time to cut back plants in the garden is prior to the first frost. If you live in northern climates this may occur as early as September or October. However, for warmer climates, it may not be until late November or December. Don't cut plants back too soon, because they will go into a growth cycle if warm temperatures persist. In most locations you can postpone cutting them back no longer than just after the first frost.

Cutting Back Flowers: Perennial flowers need the most cutting back in preparation for fall, mainly to improve the appearance of the garden. Start by cutting back all dead and yellow portions of the plants with hand pruners. In addition, some plants, such as geraniums, will turn black when exposed to freezing temperatures, so cut them back to 1 inch above the ground. You can also cut back all of the foliage from fall blooming plants to 1 inch above the ground using hand pruners.

There are a few exceptions to pruning flowering plants. According to the Frederick County Master Gardener website, you should not prune mums, asters or ferns because the foliage helps protect the roots from cold temperatures.

Cutting Back Roses in the Garden: Cutting back roses depends on the variety. All varieties should be cut back to remove the dead portions that will not regrow in the spring. Use hand pruners to cut the entire stem off near the base of the plant. In addition, if the rose is a climbing variety and you live in a northern climate with heavy snow or wind, cut all of the canes back to approximately 2 to 3 feet high. For all other rose varieties, wait until the spring to cut them back so as not to damage them.

Cutting Back Trees and Shrubs: Avoid severely cutting back shrubs prior to winter because cold weather can damage the stem wounds. Instead, prune off only the parts of the bush that are dead. Unlike bushes, late fall and winter are the best times for cutting back trees. Trees are dormant during this period and thus no real damage occurs by cutting them back. Start by cutting off all dead branches using a pruning saw and making the cuts 1 inch from the trunk. Next, stand back and look at the overall shape of the tree and cut back any limbs that have grown outside the natural canopy. You can safely cut back 1/3 of a tree's branches without causing any harm.

Cutting back a garden to prepare for winter not only improves the appearance of the yard but also the health of the plants. After you complete cutting back the garden for the year, don't forget to properly store your garden tools for the winter so they'll be ready to use next spring.

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