Preparing Your Yard For Winter

By Jan Cashman

The first fall that At Home was published, the year 2000, I wrote about how to prepare your yard for winter. The information still applies, so here is the article, revised, with added information on winterizing your perennial flowers:

It’s fall. Freezing weather is here. It’s time to ‘put the garden to bed’ as winter approaches. Here’s what can we do this fall to make sure our plants come through the winter in the best shape possible.


-Continue to water as long as you want your lawn to stay green. When you quit watering in the fall, the grass will begin to go dormant and fade in color.

-Fertilize with a high phosphorous fertilizer.

-The last mowing, mow your grass fairly short to discourage voles and snow mold.


-Pick tree fruits when ripe (depending on whether they are an early or late ripening variety, apples can ripen anytime from late August to October.) You can tell if your apples are ripe by tasting them or by the color of the seeds.  If the seeds are dark brown, the apples are likely ripe. Apples will not be harmed if they are left on the tree during a light frost, but if the temperature is going to dip below 25 degrees, they should be picked; the fruit could freeze on the tree and ruin it.

-Protect from chewing voles, blistering sunscald, and deer rubbing with tree protectors placed on the trunk from ground level up to the bottom branch or higher.

-Fence new, small and tender trees from deer.

-Cut back dead raspberry canes to the ground. They are done bearing and next year’s fruit will be borne on new canes .

-Rake debris and leaves from under trees to prevent diseases and insects from overwintering there.


-After mid-summer, cut back watering your trees to encourage them to go dormant. Then, around November 1, once their leaves have dropped but before the ground freezes, give all your trees a deep watering so they go into winter with moist roots.

-Wrap smooth-barked trees such as maples and mountain ash up to the bottom branch to prevent sunscald (blistering of the bark). Use reusable plastic tree protectors or commercial tree wraps. You can even use cardboard wrapped around the trunks and held with duct tape.

-Prune maples and birch in the fall. They will ‘bleed’ if pruned in the spring.


-Deep water your evergreens in late fall.

-Protect tender varieties such as dwarf Alberta spruce, yews, and arborvitae, from ‘winterburn’ by erecting a sunscreen– or spray on an antidescicant such as Wiltpruf in late fall after the plant is fully dormant.


-Protect hybrid tea and other tender roses with mulch or ventilated rose cones. Hardy shrub roses should not need winter protection.


-Cut most perennials back after they die back in the fall.

-Some perennials have evergreen foliage-Heucheras (coral bells), Bergenia, and Hellebores to name a few- and should not be cut back. Cut them back as needed in the spring when you see how much of their foliage has survived the winter.

-Leave the attractive foliage and flower heads of ornamental grasses and perennials such as sedum to enjoy all winter. Wait until spring to cut them back.


-Wait to cut back asparagus till spring because the old stalks left standing can catch the snow providing winter protection.

-Pull up and compost or dispose of all old vegetable foliage. Debris can harbor insects and diseases which could affect next year’s crops.

On some beautiful day this fall, get outside and protect your plants from winter’s hazards; your plants will thank you for it.