Whether you’re spending your winter months in a sunny southern locale or bundling up in a Colorado cabin, you’ll need to tend to your landscaping to make sure it survives the season as comfortably as you do. Take measures to protect both your hardscape (patio, porch, walkways) and landscape (trees, bushes, plants, and grass).
The National Gardening Association (NGA) provides a zip code map that allows you to look up your area and learn what care specific plants and trees need to successfully survive the winter. Consult your zip code’s guidelines, and then follow these general principles to protect your landscaping in the winter no matter where you’ll be.
How ‘bout that grass!
Maintain your lawn through the winter:
- If you have grass and want to maintain it, use cool-season grasses.
- Mow less frequently and avoid cutting the grass too short. The extra length helps the grass store the nutrients it needs to make it through the winter.
- Use a mower that mulches the grass as you mow so you can leave the clippings where they fall as an added protection from the cold.
- A high-potassium content fertilizer provides some cold weather protection for your grass. If you have some warm fall or winter days, sow grass seeds and do one deep watering. This will give your grass a head start on looking beautiful in the spring.
- If you use salt to melt the ice on your driveway or sidewalk, take care to avoid getting the salt on your grass – the chemicals in it can seriously damage your plants.
- No-lawn winter:
- Some homeowners choose to cover their grass with a layer of bark so there is no need for winter upkeep. If your neck of the woods doesn’t tend to get much snow, you can replace your lawn with cool weather vegetables. All types of lettuce and kale grow well in the winter, and you can construct raised beds for easy care – and a springtime bounty.
Care for your hardscape: outdoor patio, porch or deck
Ideally, you should do this before the cold sets in – but if you have a clear, sunny day in the dead of winter, that works too! Check all areas of driveways, walkways, porches, patios and decks for wear and tear. Fill in the cracks. Cracks tend to expand if they are hammered with rain or weighted down with snow.
If you have a wooden deck, clean it thoroughly and pound in any loose nails. Consider sanding and sealing it with a waterproof sealant. This needs to be done on a day when the weather is at least 32º.
Bring in tables, chairs, pillows and rugs that were great for the summer, but will suffer wear and tear during winter rain, snow and wind. Clean out clogged rain gutters so that natural drainage will not be affected.
Mind the roughage: trees, bushes, perennials and annuals
Your plants might or might not enjoy the cold weather, but you can make things easier on them by doing a bit of work before the first frost.
- Cut back on the watering frequency for both trees and bushes.
- Trim back perennials and pull-up annuals.
- Consider adding winter-proof plants or annuals to fill the gaps.
- In very cool or cold weather, consider ornamental cabbages and kale. Primroses do well in areas that do not get winter snow. Use the NGA map to determine which plants and ornamental grasses are hardy enough to thrive in your particular winter climate.
- Wrap tree trunks in canvas or burlap, and do the same with large shrubs and plants. If tree branches become laden down with snow, use a broom to knock the snow off before its weight causes a branch to break.