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Put Your Garden to Bed for Winter

Cold weather’s coming. Is your garden ready? Source: Pixaby

The growing season is nearing its end, even for those of us living in the warm Southwest. As your plants prepare for winter, so should you. In between the holiday madness, do your best to carve out a little time for the garden. Here’s a checklist of six basic tasks:

Say Good-Bye to Annuals – I know this will hurt to hear, but they are called annuals for a reason. When cold weather hits they die. Pull up the plants, roots and all, and shake off the soil before adding them to the compost heap. While you’re doing that, make a note of which ones grew the best so you can remember to buy more next spring.

Zinnias and other flowering annuals were beautiful during the summer but now it’s time to let them go and clean up before winter. Source: Pixaby

Tidy Perennials – They may be going dormant but they will benefit from a little TLC. Trim down tender foliage that will die when frost hits. My canna lilies become a gooey mess at the first sign of freezing. The garden always looks better once I have that cleared away.

Some Last-Minute Mulching – If you didn’t get to it yet, there’s still time for some mulching. Mulching reduces water loss, helps prevent erosion during heavy storms, inhibits germination of weed seeds in spring, and feeds the roots during the winter. Add mulch round the base to preserve the root crown. My scented geraniums and pineapple sage benefit from this treatment.

Head for Cover – Somewhere in Canada is a cold front heading your way. Bring container grown tender plants inside to a cool place with light. Many people use their garage, which is fine for plants with nothing live above ground. But for plants with green leaves, plan to provide light from a nearby window or a grow lamp. Got something in the ground that needs cover? Have on hand some burlap, landscape fabric, or even an old blanket to wrap them up before a cold front hits.

Succulents and other tender container plants need to be brought under shelter before winter’s freezing temperatures hit. Source: Pixaby

Prepare for the Big Freeze – Chances are you will deal with at least one period of below-freezing temperatures. Drain water from water features and wipe them down with vinegar to discourage algae and fungus. Also drain hoses and bring them inside if you won’t be using them.

Hoses will last longer if they’re protected from damaging freezes that expand the water held inside and crack the tubing. Source: Pixaby

Another Last-Minute Opportunity – Most bulbs are planted in October. That’s for the organized gardener. If you’re like me, this is the time when I realize it’s now or never when planting bulbs. This is also the time that nurseries put bulbs on sale. What’s available may be picked over but plant them now and they will make up for lost time as the slowly grow through the winter to prepare for spring.

There’s still time for procrastinators like me to plant flowering bulbs before winter hits. As a special bonus, many are now on end-of-season sale. Source: Pixaby


Ann McCormick, Southwest Gardening contributor


If you enjoy herbs and organic gardening, you’ll want to meet Ann McCormick, the Herb ‘n Cowgirl. A life-long gardener, she has devoted her time for the last 20 years to writing and speaking about her favorite subject. Ann is a feature writer for The Dallas Morning News.The Herb ‘n Cowgirl also shares her love of herbs and her gardening techniques as a speaker and media guest. She lives in Fort Worth, TX with her husband of 35 years and an assortment of dogs. To find out more about the Herb ‘n Cowgirl visit her at


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