Preparing the garden for winter is mostly cleaning up and covering up the plants. Below are some easy tips to keep the garden looking spectacular in the spring to come.
Pull Up Dying Plants
Make sure to pull up any plants that have died or that have had insect or disease problems. If pests and disease overwinter in the garden, they could spread. Make sure to dispose the plants properly and do not add them to your compost pile.
After the first killing frost and the foliage has died, prune back the perennials to 4-6 inches tall. These trimmings can be added to the compost pile. Also, make sure to remove any slimy leaves. This will insure insects and disease don't overwinter there. Don't add these parts to the compost pile. Hostas for example can get slimy so make sure to check them.
Keep Pretty Plants Standing
Leave any plants that are standing and have interesting seed heads alone. This would include sedum, Russian sage, grasses, sunflowers, coneflowers, ...etc. They look nice in the barren winter landscape and are a food source during winter months.
Cover With Compost
Spread 1-6 inches of compost to the garden. This will revitalize the soil with nutrients. If there is no compost available, mulch or straw can also be used but won't be full of nutrients. Composting/mulching is good to keep moisture in the soil, it helps keep the temperatures level, and overall protects the plants especially roses and sensitive hydrangeas.
Don't Start Winterizing Too Soon
Don't put protective mulch, including pine branches, leaves, straw, and compost down too early. Mice will move in if done too early and can dine on the plants. Also, some broadleaf evergreens can benefit from applying Wilt Stop to the foliage. This shouldn't be applied until well into November and can be applied 2-3 times throughout winter on warmer days. Wilt Stop will keep the leaves from drying out on broadleaf evergreens such as boxwoods and rhododendrons.
Keep Late Harvest Vegetables
Broccoli, brussel sprouts, and kale can be left in the garden until after a light frost. The frost helps them develop better, sweeter flavor.
Protect Young Trees
Surround young trees with chicken wire or deer fencing to help keep critters away from the tender bark. Rabbits and deer like to graze on anything during winter and can cause great damage to the trees.