In winter the garden sleeps, waiting patiently for spring to burst out in new life. Ensuring that your garden survives the winter in good health with proper preparation helps it start off the next year on the right foot, and saves you work in spring. Preparing plants to overwinter leads to less damage to the beds and less loss of plants to disease and damage. Fall is the time to get plants ready for the winter. Then you can forget about your garden until the snow begins to melt.
Clean out the garden beds. Remove old mulch from perennial flowers and dispose of it. Pull up and compost annual flowers. Remove leaves, dead plant matter and fallen branches from the beds.
Cut perennial flower plants down to 3 inches in height once the foliage begins to die back, usually after the first fall frost. Dispose of the trimmings or compost them.
Dig up tender bulbs and roots such as dahlias and calla lilies. Store in dry peat moss in a cool, dark area until spring replanting.
Add a 2-inch layer of compost to both perennial and annual beds. Work it into the soil with a hand cultivator, taking care not to damage the roots of perennial plants.
Apply winter mulch to rosebushes and other tender shrubs before the first hard freeze in fall. Cover the main trunk and crown with a 6-inch layer of leaves and soil or use pine needles.
Mulch over perennial beds once the ground begins to freeze to protect the plant crowns from winter damage. Use a 3- to 4-inch layer of straw, pine boughs or leaves.