How to Prepare Your Garden for Winter: 5 Tips



We’ve had a cold and wet summer in the Northeast this year, so I’m not sure what the Fall and Winter seasons will bring us in terms of temperature, snow, wind, and rain.  However, I do know that a good looking garden (including grass, shrubs, and flowers) starts as soon as everything begins to die or go dormant.  Here are some basic Fall gardening tips that will make your green space look great come the first couple of warm days in the Spring:
1. If your garden includes a lawn then the early Fall time period is the best time to re-seed, fertilize, and add lime.  I tend to fertilize in the early Fall and early Spring time periods and I usually use my soil sample numbers to guide the type of fertilizer I buy.  A soil sample analysis will tell you how to amend your lawn’s soil and whether it needs more or less potassium, nitrogen, etc. I like to test my soil every 5-8 years.  It’s important that you follow the instruction on your spreader when adding fertilizer and lime and amend your soil according to whatever nutrients you need to put back into the ground.  Re-seeding your lawn with new grass seed is fairly simple and can be done by hand if your lawn is not too large.  I re-seed any bare spots in my lawn every October.  

2. Don’t forget that your plants, shrubs, and bushes can also benefit from an application of fertilizer.  Use a slow release fertilizer and apply the correct amount according to the bag instruction.  Over fertilizing can be an issue for any plant, so it’s always best to under fertilize if you’re unsure.  

3. October is a good time to prune shrubs and bushes and ensure that the plants will come back healthier and fuller in the Spring.  Every bush or shrub has a slightly different pruning method so it’s best to do a little research on how much material to cut off and where in the branch formation you should cut.  October is also the best time to plant new shrubs and bushes.  Visit the GardenWeb forums for specific advice on trees, shrubs, and just about any plant.

4. If you have any hardscapes in your garden such as pavers, natural stone, etc. the Fall is a good time to apply a sealer to help protect your surfaces.   For example, I seal my concrete paver walkway every other year so that the pavers do not shift or come loose.  I also add new play sand in between the pavers to keep water from reaching underneath the walkway (you’ll want to add your sand first, with a large broom, and thereafter add your sealer to bind the sand).  While not necessarily tied to your garden, resealing your asphalt driveway is also a good idea if the current surface is cracked, crumbling, or is in general disrepair.  I’ll be applying a blacktop sealer for the first time this Fall and I’ll let you know how involved the process after the project is complete.
5. I happen to live in a town with an active Shade Tree Commission and a recognized Tree City USA program – this means our community takes maintaining and planting new trees pretty seriously.  The commission prunes street trees, plants new trees in the Fall, and removes any dead or almost dead trees.  The Fall is a great time to plant a new street tree!  Planting a tree near your home increases property value, shades your home during the summer months, and just makes for a better quality of life.  Most plant centers have crews available to plant street trees, but you can plant your own tree with a little bit muscle and a few friends on a crisp Fall weekend.  


  1. I went to a talk at a nursery on Saturday about how to install pavers. The paver guy said to use joint sand (ASTM-C133) between pavers rather than sandbox sand. He also said there’s a product called polymer sand that inhibits the growth of weeds between pavers and also insect activity (ants like to live between the pavers), which are problems for me. Thought I’d pass that along in case you hadn’t heard of joint sand or polymer sand.

  2. These are good, practical tips. We have three properties and fall is busy time of year as there are a number of trees and bushes which need to be attende to.

  3. Yes, yes, when installing pavers use joint sand. I use play sand when I reapply the sand just before sealing (this is basically to cover any holes / gaps that may have occurred with the weather).
    There’s a great sealer that’s only available at decent garden centers (you won’t find it at Lowes or Home Depot). I’m blanking on the name, but it’s basically a transparent glue that bind the joints so no weeds can grow). It also helps protect the concrete (color/material) in the paver itself. I’ll see if I can find the name in my notes.
    Vince Scordo

  4. Wow, three properties – that must be a ton of work! Good luck and feel free to pass along any tips you may have…
    Vince Scordo

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