Winterizing Your Garden

by | Oct 23, 2018

Strategically plant your winter colour in groups, contrasting blocks of bright colours, like yellow, with more pastel shades for the most vibrant effect. Centre groupings of pansies with the many unique colours of evergreen carex grasses and add colourful conifers, winter heathers, and evergreen perennials, like euphorbias, for winter containers and plantings that come alive now and last through to April.

Have a shady spot? Perennial hellebores are a must; particularly H. niger, which is known as the ‘Christmas Rose’ and will bloom during the darkest days of winter.

above: hellebores
Fall Bulbs
above: allium

Fall Bulbs

Right now is still the ideal time to plant your fall bulbs. Plant them in well-drained soil at a depth of 3 times the diameter of the bulb and plant them in groupings for the most ‘pop’.

With proper planning, you can time your bulbs to bloom in sequence from January through June. I’m a big fan of botanical or species bulbs that naturalize easily and come back each year with an even more impressive display. Whether you choose those bulbs or not, though, make sure you have at least a few giant alliums for a great summer show in June and July.


Lifting Bulbs

It’s just about time to finish lifting and protecting summer bulbs. Gladiola corms and begonia tubers should have been lifted by now, and must be kept warm at about 15°C (60°F).

Late October/early November is also the time to lift dahlia and canna tubers. Make sure you dry them thoroughly, then dust with sulphur powder to help prevent rot. Keep them from frost and store them in a cool spot about 5-10°C (40-50°F). Check occasionally for any spoiling. In spring, take a sharp, clean knife and divide the tubers, leaving a stem on each before planting again.

Left: corm, right:  tuber

Vegetable Gardens

Many late vegetables can stay in the garden for winter harvesting. These include turnips, parsnips, brussels sprouts, swiss chard, and the new series of winter vegetables. If you do not have proper vegetable storage, you can place a thick mulch of bark over your root crops and leave them in the ground as long as possible. If we get some severe cold, cover your vegetables with N-Sulate cloth for protection – it will make up to a 10°C temperature difference.

Vegetable Gardens
Adding Compost to your Garden

Compost, Mulch, and More

Fall is a great time to add existing compost to your garden, and there is still time (though the window will close soon!) to plant Garden Rejuvenation Mix for invaluable green manure in the spring.

Speaking of compost, make sure you take full advantage of all the leaves, old annuals, and vegetable stems by composting them over the winter. You might also wish to add more fine fir or hemlock bark mulch or sawdust to your vegetable garden to improve the drainage next year. Applying lime is also important now except, of course, where you are going to grow potatoes.


Cut your lawn quite low (1½ – 2 inches) to allow more air circulation in and around the root systems, and to prevent many disease problems. To prevent moss from taking over your lawn, maintain a high level of nutrients by applying a controlled-release, high-nitrogen fertilizer and by applying Dolopril lime at the rate of 10 kilograms per 2000 square feet to prevent acidic soil.

It is too late to seed new lawns, but aerating and applying sand to existing lawns now would sure make a huge difference.

Cutting and Maintaining Your Lawn
Trees and Shrubs

Trees and Shrubs

Now is a great time to plant most evergreens, fruit trees, and shade trees. They are becoming dormant and, once planted, they will immediately form new roots and by spring, they will have well-established root systems. Some points to remember:

  1. The quality of the soil in which you plant your new trees will determine how well your trees grow. Work in plenty of fine bark mulch to open up our heavy clay soils and improve drainage.
  2. If your trees are in burlap sacks, you should leave the sack on the rootball – it’s holding all those roots together!
  3. Bare root trees can be safely planted now. They will easily make new roots, getting them off to a great start come spring.
If you use a liquid root booster, your trees will get a faster start. Evergreen hedges planted now will provide a good windbreak for cold winter winds, thereby helping to keep your fuel bill down a little. Hedges will also give you privacy and, at the same time, beautify your home. So, all things considered, an evergreen hedge is an excellent investment. If you have an existing hedge, an application of controlled-release nitrogen would help tone it up after a stressful summer.
Many fall or winter-flowering trees and shrubs can be planted now to provide winter beauty – these include viburnum ‘Pink Dawn’, autumn-flowering cherries, Chinese witch hazel, ornamental grasses, jasmine, and the many varieties of berried plants, to name just a few.

It is critical that you begin organic dormant spraying with ‘Green Earth Lime Sulphur’ and ‘Horticultural Oil’ in mid-November to control moss, algae, insects, and diseases that overwinter on your trees.

As we enter a brand new season, it is so nice to have our lawns and gardens in shape for the coolest and wettest time of the year. The addition of winter colour is a pure bonus – one you will appreciate more and more as winter progresses!

Winter Flowering Trees and Shrubs