As the chilly winds of winter descend, it’s not an excuse to abandon our gardens! Instead, winter is a great time for doing some essential garden maintenance and getting your spaces ready for the season ahead. There are lots of ways to make the most of winter in the garden. Yes, using the time to complete some essential garden chores is on, but there’s so much more. Winter can also be a great time to enjoy indoor gardening, greenhouse gardening, or growing cold-hardy vegetables.

In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about winter gardening, to help you keep your gardens thriving through the cooler months. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the beauty of winter gardening just as much as spring and summer!

The joys and challenges of winter gardening

Gardening through winter can be rewarding, but it’s not without its challenges. Colder temperatures and reduced hours of sunlight mean that some plants simply won’t grow, and others will struggle under these conditions. Here are some of the joys and challenges that come with gardening through the winter. 

Preparing for colder weather

There’s not much you can do to prepare for the decreased sunlight in winter, but you can prepare for the cold! Insulating delicate plants, mulching to protect roots, and securing structures against harsh winds are vital steps. It’s also important to maintain your garden tools and ensure proper storage to avoid damage. Don’t worry, we’ll get into more details on winter garden maintenance below.

Gardening from the comfort of home

Too chilly to venture outside? That’s no excuse to give up on your garden! Using windowsills, grow lights, or dedicated indoor spaces, cultivating herbs, dwarf varieties of vegetables, and flowering plants is a fun way to keep your garden going over winter.

This is a great way to enjoy caring for plants while remaining in the warmth and comfort of your home. Plus your houseplants need a bit of extra care in the winter- don’t forget to check out our guide on winter houseplant care!

Landscaping plants that maintain foliage and color through winter

Your landscaping doesn’t have to become barren through the winter! Selecting evergreens, ornamental grasses, and shrubs that thrive in cooler temperatures is a secret to sustaining year-round visual allure in your garden. These stalwart beauties maintain their foliage and offer striking textures and hues, elevating your winter landscape.

ornamental grasses

Enjoying cold hardy vegetables plants

Vegetable gardens don’t need to hibernate! Cold-hardy crops such as broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and certain varieties of lettuces give you a continued harvest even as temperatures drop. Many of these actually taste even better when grown in cold conditions, too!

Preparing your garden for winter: Maintenance and chores

As the last orange leaves fall from your trees, it’s time to prepare your garden for winter. But what exactly does that involve? Here are some simple chores you can do to help your garden survive winter and prepare it for a bountiful season ahead. 

Winterize garden tools

Before the icy grip of winter tightens, it’s essential to give your gardening tools some TLC. Clean, dry, and oil metal parts to prevent rust and deterioration, and store your tools indoors if possible. Sharpen blades for pruning shears and other cutting tools, ensuring they’re ready for the next season’s tasks. Don’t forget to check out this guide on sprinkler winterization

Garden tools

Protect plants from frost

After you do your fall garden cleanup, shield vulnerable plants by covering them with frost cloths or blankets on nights when frost is forecasted. Building these raised bed frost tunnels is a quick and easy way to protect your plants or give your spring seedlings a head start. For container plants, move them to sheltered areas, closer to the house or under eaves, to shield them from the brunt of winter’s chill. 

DIY raised bed frost cover using pex pipes and frost cloth over two raised beds

Mulching around the base of plants provides insulation and helps maintain stable soil temperatures, protecting roots from freezing. Additionally, grouping potted plants together can create a microclimate that offers some protection from the cold.

How to create a beautiful winter garden

Just because it’s winter, that doesn’t mean your garden needs to be barren! Use winter-blooming flowers like pansies, hellebores, and witch hazel to infuse color into the landscape with winter garden planters. These hardy blooms defy the cold, adding pops of vibrancy amid the winter hues.

Incorporate evergreen shrubs, conifers, and plants with captivating textures like ornamental grasses or berries to provide structure and visual interest. They stand resilient, lending depth and contrast against the wintry backdrop.

Winter pruning

Some plants require fall pruning, some winter, and some spring! Check your plants’ individual requirements to ensure you get the timing right. For example, some ornamental grasses do best if left alone through the winter, while other grasses need to be cut back. Roses need late winter pruning, but hydrangeas’ ideal pruning time vary greatly by variety, so check out our guide to pruning hydrangeas for tips! Last but not least, don’t forget to check on how and when to prune your trees.

How To Prune Trees & When To Prune Trees

How to keep gardening through the winter

As the frost sets in, it’s tempting to keep your green thumb safely tucked in your pocket. But if you want to, you can easily continue to garden through the winter. Here’s how. 

Cold hardy vegetable gardening

Cold-hardy vegetables are the perfect addition to your winter garden. Crops like kale, spinach, and carrots endure the cold remarkably well. Plan and sow these resilient plants in late summer or early fall for a continuous harvest throughout winter, either directly in the ground or in raised beds with protective covers.

Greenhouse gardening

Greenhouse gardening is another great way to keep less-hardy plants going through winter. From tender herbs to exotic flowers, a greenhouse offers a haven for nurturing plants year-round. You can build a greenhouse yourself, or buy a greenhouse kit like the one shown below.

18 DIY Greenhouses

Indoor gardening

Especially if you live in a colder zone, sometimes it’s best to focus on indoor winter gardening. Use the cooler months as a chance to focus on winter houseplant care, try these DIY indoor greenhouse ideas, or start an indoor herb garden. You can also try something new, like learning how to force bulbs indoors – they make great holiday gifts for gardeners!

More ways to approach gardening through winter

In almost every climate, it’s normal for gardens to slow down over winter. If you want to slow down and take a break as well, winter is a great time to do it! There’s no need to force yourself out into the cold to do your garden chores – most things can wait until spring. Here are some ways to keep your love of gardening alive over winter without freezing your fingers!

Online shopping for bulbs, seeds, and more 

Embrace the convenience of online platforms to procure an array of seeds, bulbs, tools, and gardening supplies. Our list of our favorite seed catalogs is always growing and includes online sources as well. Use the slower winter months to explore new varieties, order seeds for new unique plants, and gather essentials for the upcoming growing season, all from the warmth of your home. This is honestly one of my favorite ways to get excited about the gardening season to come.

saffron corms
Photo source: Eden Brothers

Plan your spring garden

Winter provides an excellent opportunity to envision and plan your dream garden for the coming spring. Research plant varieties, design layouts, and create a planting schedule. Consider factors like sunlight, soil conditions, and companion planting to craft a well-thought-out garden plan.

Start seeds indoors 

Get a head start on the growing season by starting seeds indoors. Use seed trays, egg cartons, or small containers, ensuring they receive adequate light, warmth, and moisture. Early indoor sowing allows for robust seedlings that will be ready for transplanting as soon as the frost recedes.

Growing Seeds Indoors is Easy!

Propagate houseplants 

Expand your indoor greenery by propagating some of your houseplants. Experiment with methods like stem cuttings or division to create new plants from existing ones. Winter’s slower pace offers an ideal window to nurture these new additions to your indoor garden.

Free Plants: Plant Propagation for Beginners
Photo source: Fine Gardening

Winter gardening: It’s what you make it! 

Some gardeners use winter as a time to take a break from the garden, while others are keen to find ways to keep growing through the colder months. There’s no right or wrong way to approach winter gardening – just do what feels best for you! But, if you’re ready to move on from winter and get to spring, we’ve got you. Learn to start seeds indoors to get a jump on the growing season, then head over to our post all about ranunculus to learn how to grow my favorite spring flower, and get inspired to create beautiful flower beds.

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