Seven tips: how to winterproof your garden

Susanne Loacker

Fall is the start of a well-deserved period of rest for the garden. But there is still a lot to be done outside before garden owners can put their feet up. It’s important to prepare the lawn, plants, flower pots and water sources properly for the frosty temperatures in time for winter. With these seven tips, however, you and your garden will be well prepared for the approaching winter.

A lawn between tufts of ornamental grass. Bare trees and a garden bench can be seen in the background.
© Getty Images/iStockphoto

In this article

1. Mow, rake, fertilize and scarify the lawn?

The lawn should be extensively maintained again before the first ground frost, i.e. at the beginning of November at the latest. The most important measure is to mow the lawn – make sure that the lawn is no shorter than five centimeters, otherwise it will be overgrown by moss. Because unlike lawn grass, which stops growing when the ground temperature reaches 9 degrees, moss is not affected by the cold.

When mowing in the fall, it’s important not to leave grass cuttings lying on the ground. It’s recommended to remove the grass cuttings at the same time as the leaves. Because in the fall and winter, the lawn needs as much light and air as possible to survive the cold. You should therefore rake regularly until all the trees have lost their leaves.

Tip: piles of leaves in the garden offer smaller animals like hedgehogs a place to spend the winter, so make sure you don’t disturb the piled-up leaves.

Special lawn fertilizer provides additional care during the fall. The high potassium content strengthens the grass and protects it from frost damage.

Scarifying is only recommended for heavily used lawns or old lawns with extensive moss infestation. Otherwise, you don’t need to get out the scarifier until the spring. If you definitely want to go ahead with this work, you should only do it at mild temperatures above 10 degrees. Otherwise the lawn won’t be able to recover from the stressful procedure. You can also read all about scarifying in our article “Scarifying a lawn”.

Tip: even if the lawn looks worn out from summer, you should still wait until the spring to reseed it. Because if temperatures are too low, the new seeds won’t be able to grow properly.

A man in work pants can be seen with a lawnmower. There are yellow leaves on the lawn, it’s the fall.

Mow properly again in the fall: the lawn will thank you for it. And remove any leaves right away, too.

2. Repot, transplant and plant

Plants that are in flower, as is typically the case in the spring and summer, should not be repotted or removed from their pots and replanted in the garden. Fall is the best time for this. And then it’s important to prepare these plants for the winter at the same time (see below).

Flower bulbs are also best planted in the fall: if you want colorful tulips or daffodils in the spring, the bulbs should be put into the ground before the first frost. However, the flower beds should be protected from frost (see below).

Two male hands are planting tulip bulbs; brown grass can be seen next to them.

If you want them to flower in the spring, tulip and narcissus bulbs have to be planted in the soil in the fall.

3. Grasses, shrubs, trees: how to prune them correctly

It sounds simple, but isn’t: you can even make mistakes when pruning.

  • Grasses should be tied together and cut back later in winter. And when you do so, go about the task liberally: ornamental grasses and flowering perennials can be cut right down to the ground. They will become all the bushier and denser in the spring.
  • Hibiscus and buddleia should be pruned extensively so that their thin branches are not broken off by any snow that falls over the winter.
  • Larger bushes, hedges and even trees should only be trimmed at the end of the winter. The important thing is not to let them freeze.

Tip: roses should not be cut until next spring.

Using the right tool is also crucial. For grasses or thin branches, simple garden shears are sufficient. For thicker branches you can use lopping shears or a saw.

A hand in a yellow gardening glove can be seen trimming a young tree.

Most trees and shrubs should be trimmed in the fall.

4. Water generously again

During the resting phase, don’t water or only water sparingly – this rule is correct. However, as the earth is often still very dry from the summer, you should continue watering your plants – whether they have been transplanted or are still in their pots – until the first frost arrives, even if the weather is no longer as warm. You can slowly reduce the amount of water you use. This will make the plants sturdier and better able to survive the winter.

5. Protect plants from frost

Some plants are more at home in warm areas around the Mediterranean. If you want to protect them from frost, it’s not the branches that matter, but the roots. That’s why it’s especially important for the pots to be well protected – preferably with jute, a coconut mat or an old coffee bag. Smaller pots can also be placed in a wooden box, which should then be filled with wood chips or straw (from the pet shop). The branches are best packed in fleece.

Flower beds, especially those that contain freshly planted bulbs, don’t like cold weather either. Leaves or garden fleece protect the plants from the cold. An additional cover also guards against snow.

Attention: non-hardy plants must now be brought into the house.

Pots are standing on the basement stairs. The pots have been wrapped up, and so have some of the bushes.

Safely sheltered from the wind and wrapped up warmly – winter can begin.

6. Don’t compost plants too hastily

Many plants look dry, brown and leafless in the fall. Don’t simply dispose of them. Wait and give them another chance in the spring. Any plants that haven’t sprouted by June can still be thrown into the green waste disposal then.

7. Make the rest of the garden winterproof

It’s not just plants that you need to get ready for the winter. Water supplies in the garden also need special care: turn off the pipe in the cellar and leave the tap on. This is because the volume of frozen water is greater than that of liquid water. If a pipe or the garden hose is full to bursting, damage will be caused in the event of frost.

Garden furniture should be brought into the basement or covered up. Hardwood furniture will be grateful for a layer of oil or wax to help it survive the dry winter cold with considerably fewer cracks. And where there are no cracks, no water can penetrate, freeze and cause even more damage.

Conclusion: a checklist will help you to remember all the important things to take care of in the fall: maintaining the lawn, repotting and transplanting, planting bulbs for the spring, cutting grass and perennials. And don’t forget the garden infrastructure.

Read next

On our website we use cookies and analysis tools to constantly improve user-friendliness. This allows us to offer you the best possible service and personalize the advertising for you, both on our website and with our advertising partners. By using the website, you agree to the use of cookies. You can find more detailed provisions in our Privacy Statement).