How to look after your garden in winter

How to look after your garden in winter

Winter may be here but there are a surprising number of tasks to keep you busy out in the garden. Now’s the time to wrap your plants up warm, clear out dead material and plan your planting for next year. There are even a few things you can start growing if you’re super keen.

So pop on an extra layer and get cracking with our top tips on how to garden in winter. And once you've got your garden straight, you should think about how to prepare your shed for winter - check out our guide!

1. Prune and protect

Lean to greenhouse against wall with door open
Shelter hardy perennials in an unheated greenhouse to protect them 
Image: 8 x 4 Evesham Lean-to Pent Wooden Greenhouse from Waltons

Doing too much pruning in winter is not advised as you can cut away new life but you can prune fruit trees and bushes, wisteria and rose bushes. Cut back dead stems on perennials and remove any faded flowers and old leaves, too.

If the snow comes, be sure knock any excess off your plants. The weight, and a lack of sunlight, can cause real damage. And be sure to protect your favourite plants from the frost. 

Keep out the cold

snow covered plant pot
Raise plant pots off the ground to help insulate them from frost and snow
Image: Mazur Travel/Shutterstock

ITV gardening presenter, David Domoney, writes a weekly column for the Sunday Mirror and blogs at He offers lots of advice on protecting plants from cold weather and says keeping them warm and dry is the key to stop plants from dying when temperatures plummet.

David recommends lifting pots using pot feet or old corks to prevent waterlogging, and moving them to a warmer location. Wrap the compost and roots to keep them toasty (but don’t cover the compost surface or your plant will rot):

“A couple of layers of bubble wrap is a great insulator. Or make ‘pot duvets’ from black plastic bags filled with straw or shredded paper. They look a bit odd but they will keep the soil warm.”

In outdoor beds use a layer of mulch, straw leaves or bark around stems to help protect roots from the cold. You can also cover plants that can’t be moved with fleece or cloches to protect them from the cold.

Look after your lawn

frosty lawn in the garden
Your lawn still needs care in winter
Image: Shutterstock

Take care of your lawn too. Now is a good time to tidy and repair edges. Keep grass at mid-length throughout the winter. Too short and it’ll have a hard time surviving. Too long and frost will make it brittle. Just make sure you don't take more than about a third of the growth when you mow.

If the weather’s cold, lawn growth will be very slow, so you may be able to leave it alone until the start of spring. Milder weather will mean you’ll have to get the mower out at some point during the winter, though!

2. Get planting

winter colours
Plant winter containers close to the house for extra colour
Image: The Frustrated Gardener

Believe it or not, there are a few things you can plant even at this time of year. Onions, cabbage and lettuce can all be sown in trays. Water and keep warm until spring when you can transplant them into your outdoor beds.

Things to plant in your winter veg plot

garlic planted in raised bed
Grow garlic in a raised bed for harvesting during the summer
Image: pneumann70/Pixabay

Gardening broadcaster and author Paul Peacock says it’s easy to sow garlic, too. Writing for the British Heart Foundation, he recommends choosing garlic varieties that are bred for the UK climate, such as 'Chesnok Wight' or 'Solent Wight'. Plant in raised beds or large pots but, as Paul reminds us, make sure you prepare the soil first: “simply take a hoe and chop away at the soil until it looks like crumbly cake mix.”

Things to plant in your winter flower beds 

snowdrops at the end of winter
A carpet of snowdrops brightens up your winter garden 
Image: Shutterstock

Keep your flowerbeds cheerful with bulbs such as snowdrops and crocus, and plant bare root roses in a sunny spot now for a riot of summer colour.

Dan Cooper blogs as The Frustrated Gardener and says adding colour he can enjoy from indoors also keeps him going through the winter months. He recommends planning and planting a few cheerful containers in spots near to the house to spur you on:

On a bright day, leaves fringed with hoar frost, even simple evergreens such as bay, laurel, viburnum and holly are transformed into objects of great beauty.”

Investigate violas, miniature cyclamen and English ivy to create your own potted winter wonderland.

3. Plan and prepare

rhubarb plant in the garden
Plant perennials such as rhubarb as long as the ground isn't frozen
Image: Shutterstock

Too cold outside? Sit down indoors with a cup of something hot and make a plan for the coming year. Work out what you want to plant, create a monthly ‘to-do’ list and order your plants and seeds before the Spring rush.

Think about having a dedicated bed for perennials such as rhubarb or asparagus. Dream of summer by thinking about your hanging baskets. Or, order lobelia and geraniums ready for a splash of colour.

A winter tidy-up

gardening tools to look after in winter
Clear out your shed and clean and sharpen your tools
Image: Shutterstock

Take a look in your garden storage for equipment and tools that can be cleaned and serviced. Wipe tools clean, sharpen and give a good spray of WD40 to prevent corrosion. Service your lawnmower. Check and organise boxes of bulbs and take pots and trays inside for a good clean, too. Spend some time tidying and re-organising your storage shed and you'll have a huge head start once warmer weather arrives. 

Now’s also a good time to inspect and repair pergolas, arches, sheds and other garden storage. In dry spells, why not add a lick of paint or wood stain too? Remember Spring is just around the corner. Prepare well now and you’ll be ready for the flurry of gardening activity the new season brings.

Been out winter gardening? Remember to share your stories, photos and advice on our Facebook page. We love to hear from you!

Lead image:  ArnicaBackstrom/Pixabay

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