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How to Protect Your Garden From Cold Weather

Landscape contractor Jenn Nawada shows host Kevin O’Connor how to preserve and protect a garden over the winter.

In this video, landscaping contractor Jenn Nawada shows host Kevin O’Connor everything he needs to know about preparing your garden for winter.

Jenn explains that protecting all the hard work performed in the spring, summer, and fall should be the concern before the cold weather arrives. By focusing on water, clean-up, and protection, Jenn dishes on the best ways to protect your plants.

When is the Best Time to Prep Plants for Winter?

November is the perfect time to put some protections in place to help ensure a healthy growing season next spring. You work so hard on your garden all spring, summer, and fall – you want to protect it from harsh winter elements.

Ways to Prepare Your Garden for Winter

1. Water

It varies every year, but statistically, plants don’t get a lot of water in October and November. By the time the harsh winter freeze comes along in December, plants are already thirsty. Instead of making those plants wait for April showers, keep them watered before the big freeze.

A few rainfall-type soaks over the late fall months is all it takes to prepare plants, shrubs, and other garden favorites for the winter without getting their roots too soggy.

2. Clean Up

Giving garden plants a quick clean-up is also important to preserve all the hard work put in over the spring, summer, and fall. How you perform that clean up depends on the type of plant:

  • Perennials: For those plants that return year after year, cut them back to within 2 inches of the soil when they start to brown by the end of the season.
  • Annuals: Plants that don’t return year after year are called annuals, and the best way to clean them up is to remove them and let them decompose on a compost pile. If you have bulbs on hand, plant a few in the hole left behind after removal.
  • Ornamental grasses: It’s your preference. Ornamental grasses can be cut back at the end of the year or left to provide some texture over the winter. Should you decide to leave them, be sure to cut them back in late February or early March before new growth starts.

3. Protect

With the plants watered and cleaned up, the last thing to do is protect them from the elements. There are quite a few methods for protecting garden plants, including insulation, cover, and sprays.

  • Mulch: Most folks think of mulching as a spring activity, but 2 to 4 inches of mulch will protect the roots, retain moisture, and insulate them from the harshest temperatures. Use bark mulch, hay, or shredded leaves to protect those tender roots.
  • Anti-desiccants: Some garden plants, like broadleaf evergreens or plants that live alongside walkways that see a lot of salts, can lose their moisture to winter winds in a hurry. Coating their leaves with an anti-desiccant will trap the moisture inside the plant, preventing Jack Frost from stealing their precious H2O.
  • Twine: Sometimes, all it takes to protect a plant over the winter is a bit of twine. Wrapping a shrub or plant with a bit of twine will hold its branches together and help it retain its structure under heavy snow.
  • Burlap: Areas that see a lot of traffic, snow, salt, or windy areas might require burlap to protect the plant. By wrapping the plant in burlap and tying twine around the outside, the plant can retain its shape in almost any weather while allowing airflow and moisture to penetrate through to the plant.


Jenn gives tips on how to winterize your garden. She explains how to prepare different plants for winter, including echinacea, mums, tulip bulbs, ornamental grass, juniper, and boxwoods.

She also suggests ways to protect your shrubs over the winter: by using an anti-desiccant spray, burlap, and twine. All plants and materials can be sourced at garden centers.