Winter Gardening: Embracing the Cold and Preparing For the Growing Season [Guest Post]

Break out your earmuffs and heavy coats –winter is upon us! Even though the majority of people prefer to spend the cold months cuddled up inside their toasty abodes, diligent gardeners know it’s the perfect time to be out in the garden getting ready for the spring growing season.

If you’re new to gardening or just a little rusty on exactly what winter garden prep entails, here are some pointers on what you can do to prime your garden for the coming year.

Do a Little Maintenance

While maintenance isn’t always the most exciting of tasks, it is an essential part of caring for your garden. Start by clearing out weeds in late fall after the first frost. Destroying them now prevents them from going to seed and developing deeper roots.

Spend some time making repairs to garden walls, paths and beds. Mark areas for new garden space and build any frames or raised beds you need to accommodate planned spring growth. Winter is also a great time to hit up stores for gardening tools as they’re cheaper out of season.

Get Your Compost & Mulch On!

Composting in freezing temperatures involves a little more work than usual, but it can certainly be done. Make sure your pile is at least 64 cubic feet in size to keep it from freezing. As long it’s kept above freezing, it will continue to slowly decompose through the winter.

To keep your compost pile working during the cold months:

  •          Use hay bales, wood, or a tarp to build a windbreak around your pile. Collect fallen leaves in the autumn to use as insulation and to balance the nitrogen in the pile.  
  •          Layer carbon ingredients such as corn stalks or newspaper with your kitchen scraps.
  •          Speed decomposition by cutting your kitchen scraps into very small pieces.
  •          Consider vermicomposting! Instructions on easily composting with worms can be found here.

It’s important to mulch during the winter to protect plants from harsh conditions such as freezes, thaws and winds. By keeping the ground frozen, plants are shielded from the warmth of the sun and kept dormant until spring. You can also use mulch to prevent erosion in unplanted garden beds.

Choose a loose material such as straw, pine needles or shredded leaves that can be easily removed in the spring, when all danger of a hard frost has passed.

Adding Interest

When all the lush greenery has died off, it’s easier to really see your garden space. If your garden looks empty and lacking of interest, consider adding a structure or other items of fascination. Work on DIY projects such as mosaic paths and ornamental planters. Add outdoor garden décor like fire pits, bird feeders, or gazebos. Once plant growth is back in full force, you’ll find that these additions add both warmth and personality to your garden.

Get a Head Start on Next Year’s Planting

Grab a seed catalog and go crazy! When the winter weather has you down, browsing through a seed catalog can be incredibly therapeutic. Start planning next year’s garden by making a list of the seeds you’d like to order and drawing out a planting plan.

Even when the countryside is bedded in snow, a true gardener is seldom idle. From maintenance and composting to DIY projects and shopping, winter gardening can be a real joy.


Mackenzie Kupfer is a gardener, writer, and student of horticultural history from Boise, Idaho. Her latest garden project is a massive gazebo that’s making her question every decision she’s ever made in life.

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