8 Winter Gardening Tips

winter gardening tips

Gardening in the winter can be absolutely impossible in much of America, but not so for North Texas! (sorry, not sorry) In the Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) area, proper lawn and garden care in the winter is essential to your yard’s health.

Even though most plants have entered their dormant period, your garden will still need some care in the winter months so it can bounce back with ease when spring rolls around. Even in DFW, where winters are mild, winter weather can still be rough on your yard and garden. In the colder months, your lawn retains less moisture and nutrients. Insect damage and diseases can also pose potential risks to your lawn’s health.

If you want your yard to be a lean, green spring machine, here are a few gardening tips so your garden doesn’t take a heavy hit during the winter months.

1. Be sure to mulch your flower beds.

You wouldn’t go out into the freezing night weather without a coat or some cold weather protection, would you? Well, just like us, flower beds require a little extra coverage to survive freezing winter temperatures. Adding a mulch layer to your flower beds helps to even out the soil temperature and keep root temperatures stable.

To successfully ensure root survival in flower beds, blanket a thick layer of mulch around your plants. This mulch layer should be about 2-3 inches thick. Not only does the mulch keep those roots warm, but it also prevents evaporation allowing the plants and soil to retain more moisture.

All new plantings should be mulched to help retain moisture and insulate roots against cold temperatures.

If you’re unable to get to the gardening store to purchase mulch, you can use shredded leaves or pine needles. Just ensure the layer is 2-3 inches thick to effectively moderate the effects of extreme temperature changes during winter freezes and thaws. Mulching will also discourage annual weeds by blocking their access to sunlight.

Leaving your soil uncovered and unprotected will all but guarantee that the freezing weather will harm the plant’s root system. If you mulched in preparation for winter, you can still feel free to mulch flower beds again before the weather warms up and weeds attempt to sprout.

2. Winter is a great time to weed out any undesirable plants in your garden.

As winter takes its toll on the leaves of trees and shrubs, unwanted and invasive species will be more exposed in your garden. As weeds and undesirables are more visible, they will be easier to remove and eradicate.

Dead and diseased plants will also be more visible during the barren winter, giving you an easy shot at removing them. Winter is an excellent time to have a dangerous dead tree removed. With no foliage to obstruct their work, tree removal companies can easily cut down trees that have to go.

Taking the time to do this chore in the winter will pay off once the new growing season begins. Many weeds germinate at the beginning of the year, making it a perfect time for winter weed removal. Remove weeds in the winter before their small seeds can expose themselves and spread.

Winter is a critical time to treat your landscape beds for weeds to create a protective barrier against spring weeds. Winter weed prevention is a service that we provide at Gecko Green. This prudent service will knock out weeds before they can germinate.

However, if you decide to roll up your sleeves and dig up the weeds yourself, just remember that you need to get every bit of the weed’s root, or the weed can still germinate.

3. Don’t forget to protect your plants from severe cold.

You’ve worked all year to maintain a healthy yard, and that labor of love needs to extend into the winter. Even in DFW, winter can be hard on your garden, and January is typically the coldest month in North Texas. In the DFW area, freezes can be unpredictable and arrive on short notice, so we recommend having a freeze plan in place. The last freeze in DFW is usually early to mid-March, so keep your freeze plan and equipment available till then.

Young trees, shrubs, and perennials are particularly vulnerable to fluctuating and extreme temperatures. When freezing temperatures arrive, it’s important to know which plants are tough enough to survive frost and which plants will need help. Consider researching the winter hardiness of your garden plants.

Thankfully, there is a wide variety of protective frost products available. You can purchase various frost cloths, wraps, and covers sold to lessen potential plant damage. Old sheets can also be convenient to cover your delicate plants.

Newly planted trees or shrubs can even be wrapped with a layer of burlap stuffed with an insulating material such as straw or dried leaves. However, in all cases, try to avoid using plastic as it can overheat your plants when the sun is up.

4. Winter watering awareness.

To protect plants from freezing temperatures, water your garden thoroughly before a cold spell. Watering in advance of a predicted freeze helps plants (especially annuals and potted plants) make it through by insulating the roots. After the freeze, washing the frost from the plants can help your flowers bounce back more quickly.

If you have any young trees or shrubs on your property, it is important to remember that they require consistent moisture. Yes, that means you need to continue deeply watering them even during the winter.

Thoroughly hydrated trees are in a much better position to survive freezing temperatures.

In the winter months, the DFW area averages around 2.5 inches of precipitation each month. Whether that precipitation arrives as rain, sleet, or snow, it is enough to keep your grass hydrated and healthy. However, if it appears that your grass is still growing, then it has not entered the dormant state.

This means that it will still require about ½ inch of water each week. Keep an eye on the weather to ensure your lawn receives that ½ inch of water naturally, or you will need to supplement.

5. Cut back and prune to clean up your winter landscape.

Winter lawns and gardens have earned a reputation as unattractive messes. It doesn’t have to be that way! Pruning and trimming in the winter is an excellent option for both tidying up your messy looking winter landscape and preparing your lawn for a healthy spring. Follow this pruning schedule to keep your property tidy and healthy this winter.

Around late fall or early winter, begin by cleaning up your perennial beds and borders. Cut down those dead flower stems and leaves. This simple step of removing early dead debris is a great way of giving your garden a crisp, fresh look. Then once you’ve gotten rid of the old stems and leaves, lay down a layer of mulch to help provide insulation for your plant’s roots.

Later on, you should start pruning your trees and shrubs before they exit dormancy towards the end of winter. A simple, light pruning is all it takes while your trees and shrubs are in their slow growth period.

During this final stage of winter, you may also be tempted to trim early bloomers, but avoid doing so, or you may lose this season’s blooms. If you’re unsure about a specific plant, research proper pruning techniques.

If you have roses in your garden, you’ll want to prune them around Valentine’s Day just before spring arrives. Buds will begin to swell at this time. If you have climbing roses, don’t worry about trimming them till they bloom in the spring.

6. Winter can actually be a good time for planting or relocating trees and shrubs.

Transplanting large shrubs or small trees is recommended while the plants are dormant during the winter months. Select a warmer winter day, and as long as the ground isn’t frozen, you can dig in.

Planting these trees and shrubs while they’re dormant gives the roots time to acclimate and establish themselves before the growth boom in the spring. After transplanting your new trees and shrubs, check them for any unhealthy areas and trim them now before roots establish and growth begins.

7. Consider container plants this winter.

If you’re tired of your yard looking like a boring, barren wasteland every winter, consider adding winter garden containers. Container gardens are an excellent way to make your porch or yard look like a winter wonderland!

There are a plethora of beautiful winter plants that will last in your containers in DFW. If you plan to have your container plant in a sunnier location, consider ornamental cabbage and kale, alyssum, dianthus, English daisy, snapdragon, marigold, or petunia.

If your container will be mostly in the shade, try cyclamen, primrose, English daisy, or Algerian ivy.Don’t forget to protect your container plants during freezing temperatures. Give your containers extra protection by covering them with a frost cloth or blankets.

You can also move the containers into protected areas during freezes, such as your garage or closer to your home’s foundation.

Another fantastic option for creating a winter container display is to collect sprigs, twigs, ornamental grasses, and dried flowers from around your yard. Throw in some evergreen, and it’s simple to create a lovely winter display in your containers.

Consider adding sand as a base in your container to keep the plants in place during winter. The best part of a winter display is that no watering will be necessary!

8. Keep your garden brilliant through the winter by selecting the right plants.

Thankfully, freezing temperatures in DFW are short-lived. Without too much difficulty, gardens are still able to thrive in North Texas’s winters – IF you select the right plants.

No matter where you live, selecting winter-hardy flowers, trees, and shrubs can be accomplished with a little research. Choose plants (native is always a great option) known to grow well in your area.

For residents of the DFW area, you can easily add some winter color to your garden by planting pansies, cyclamens, sweet alyssum, dianthus, snapdragons, and ornamental kale and cabbage. There are also some great tree and shrub options to add color to your fall/winter landscape, such as winter honeysuckle, burning bush, and witch hazel. If you’re planting during the winter, plant on warmer days when the ground isn’t frozen.

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