Putting the Garden to Bed

by Holly Boettcher

The growing season has been amazing, and it’s hard to imagine all the hard work has come to an end. You’ve had plenty of time to savor your crops, but the garden needs to go to bed for the winter. This may be the furthest thing from your mind, but if you properly tuck that garden in, springtime planting will be much easier.  Follow these easy tips to get the job done.


Carrots, potatoes, and beets can be left in the ground and then harvested late into the fall. You should mark them with a stake in case of a dusting of snow! Pull all plants such as tomatoes, peas, beans, and squash, and add them to the compost bin. Do the same with weeds. Take extra steps to eliminate any plants that may be diseased. Dispose of them by either burning or bagging anything suspicious.  

A Good Time for a Soil Test

Why not take a soil sample to your nearby county extension office or coop? This is a great time to learn if it needs to be amended. As a last step, either add compost such as leaves or well-rotted manure or consider a cover crop of winter rye which will add nutrients to your garden.


After the first frost, your hosta plants will shrivel and be easy to clean up. Wear some waterproof garden gloves because they will feel a bit slimy. And the stalks of day lilies should be removed, although you can keep up with this during the summer too. Once the lily plants go dormant, they should be cut back to about 4 inches. Some plants can be left alone such as ornamental grasses, and shrubs such as hydrangea. They will shine through the glistening snow to add a splash of winter interest!  

Leave Some Messy

Native Perennials such as coneflowers, aster, goldenrod, and native grasses should be left over the winter so goldfinches and other birds can feast on the seeds.  By not removing dead leaves and debris in these areas, you create an overwintering habitat for native bees, some butterflies, caterpillars, and other beneficial insects as well as providing additional food sources for birds!


Don’t forget to wrap the trunks of young trees to protect them from rabbits and other nibblers. Be sure to water trees and shrubs generously. My gramma always said it is good for them to go to bed with their feet wet!


Discontinue fertilizing rose bushes. They no longer need to be fed because this will encourage blooming. Prune back any damaged or dead canes. Mulch generously just above swollen area (sometimes referred to as the onion). Protect them from rabbits by using a lightweight wire fencing which can be found at a local garden center.

A Sunny Day

So, take the time during the next sunny day to don your garden clothes and get your garden ready for a long winters rest. When spring finally arrives, you will have a jump start on planting season.