Winter Prep Guide: Your yard



  • Plant spring-blooming bulbs.
  • Plant deciduous trees and shrubs through November but wait until spring to plant evergreens.
  • Don’t bag fallen leaves. Rake them into 3-foot piles. In 15 months they will have broken down into nutritious weed-free mulch for your trees or garden.
  • Disguised weeds are easier to spot as their leaves change color. Focus on pulling out invasives that have been hiding in plain sight such as multiflora rose, burning bush, buckthorn, barberry, and any honeysuckle bush that is more than 5 feet tall. If they are too big to pull, cut the trunk and immediately paint the fresh slash or stump with Round-Up.
  • You can’t successfully weed invasive vines such as bittersweet and porcelainberry. Instead, clip off the end and dip the new tip still anchored to the roots in a bottle of Round-Up.
  • Move fish and aquatic plants into an indoor tank unless your garden pond is 18 inches or more deep.
  • After the foliage blackens, dig up tender bulbs such as gladiola, dahlia, and canna with a garden fork to spend the winter in the basement.
  • Water evergreens weekly as long as your hoses are out to forestall dehydration over the winter. Or spray with Wilt Pruf antidesiccant. (Obey your community’s water restrictions.)
  • Bring houseplants indoors before the first frost.


  • Dig and prepare new vegetable and flower beds for planting next spring.
  • If you have deer, spray the bottom 6 feet of evergreens with a repellent.
  • Cut down the garden, except for shrubs. Bag the top growth of annuals and vegetable plants and disease-prone perennials such as phlox and peonies. Add the rest to your compost pile.
  • Clean and store garden furniture, stakes, and tomato cages. Disinfect with a 1 percent solution of chlorine-free bleach.


  • Prune diseased rose canes and long shoots that could whip in the wind.
  • Buy an outdoor water-heating unit to keep your birdbath from freezing.
  • Heavily mulch root crops such as parsnips to harvest throughout the winter.
  • Dump exhausted soil from pots in the compost pile to get renewed by micro-organisms there.
  • Renew mulch around trees and gardens and in beds to a depth of 4 inches. Avoid direct contact with plants.
  • Apply 25 pounds of calcite lime per 1,000 square feet of garden or lawn and let it settle over the winter.

Award-winning writer Carol Stocker is the author of the Globe’s Ask the Gardener column. Have a question? Send them, along with your name/initials and community for publication, to