This blog was originally published on April 11, 2016, and last updated on January 18, 2022.

When it comes to your Portland garden, you should give it constant care even when your bulbs are sleeping and the trees have lost their leaves. The plants you enjoy in spring flourish when they are nurtured and protected in the winter months. This guide will walk you through how to winterize your garden, prepare your plants for the colder months and bring some winter color to your yard.

What Does it Mean to Winterize?

Just like homes need to be prepped for colder temperatures, so do garden plants and landscapes. Ensuring your plants have the essentials to stay healthy until spring comes calling is all part of winterizing your garden. How you protect your plants will depend on where they are located in relation to harsh weather –  are they in windy areas or secluded ones? Winterizing your garden includes:

  • landscape cleanup of leaves and debris
  • protecting your plants from animals and insects
  • pruning appropriate plants
  • mulching trees and perennials
  • wrapping trees and shrubs for extreme weather

Additionally, avoid costly repairs by:

Clean Up Your Garden

In fall and winter, it is important to clean up weeds and give your garden a refresh so everything is ready for spring. In general, you want to clear out any debris and decaying plants from your garden all year round but winter is often when it is the most necessary. Decaying vegetation can carry plant diseases and pests that can winter over into the next season. Give your future garden a healthy start by removing all plant matter and checking on soil conditions.

Weeds are especially harmful to your garden, choking out your vegetables and flowers and sucking up valuable nutrients. As you weed, make sure that you are collecting the seeds to the weed, as well as the plant itself, to keep them from popping back up in the spring.

Using Mulch in your Winter Garden

Mulch helps your soil retain moisture, keep weeds down, and protects plant roots – especially shallow roots – from freezing. Putting mulch down in winter will stabilize soil temperature and allow plants to absorb water even when the thermometer dips.

Great mulches for winter are garden compost, bark chips, shredded bark, or any loose organic materials. Because good organic mulch improves your soil as it decomposes you should know where your mulch comes from, making sure it is free of weeds and pests. Waiting until the ground freezes is the best time to spread new organic mulch. This will help ensure no rodents are living in the piles.

You can also use landscape fabric to block weeds. It doesn’t add nutrients to your garden soil, but it does significantly reduce weeds and is a good option around shrubs, trees and open garden beds.

Protecting Your Perennials

WInterizing perennials will help discourage pests and keep your garden looking well-tended. Remove dead leaves, flowers, and stems and tidy up the base. While it may be tempting to do so, don’t fertilize perennials in the fall or early winter. Fertilizer encourages growth – the exact opposite of what you want your plants to do going into winter. However, compost will slowly supplement the soil with nutrients throughout the winter and give your perennials a good start in spring.

Some perennial plants take care of themselves while other perennials need more pruning and care. When perennials turn brown it is time to open up space in the plant by pruning. Some plants like hydrangeas have special pruning needs so consult a Blessing Landscapes professional to make sure your plants have the best start going into winter.

Winterize Trees and Shrubs

As trees and shrubs go dormant in the winter it is a good time to prune. Keep the mulch away from the tree trunk and avoid mounding. Small trees and shrubs in your yard are more susceptible to garden pests like rabbits, mice, and voles that can eat away at the tree and cause damage. If you live in an area where you have animal visitors, you can protect trees with tree wrap or netting.

Portland doesn’t often get severe weather but we have been known to get the occasional ice storm which is especially damaging to plants. If the forecast predicts severe cold weather or prolonged cold temperatures, it is a good idea to wrap your small trees or shrubs that are marginal for our area with burlap to keep them safe through the cold weather. You can also pile mulch up around the base of the plant to protect the roots – just don’t mound it against the trunk. Burlap wraps can also help plants prone to winter burns that are in areas of high wind exposure.

Preparing Roses for Winter

Portland isn’t called the City of Roses for nothing. Roses are a staple plant in many Portland gardens. To protect the health of your roses, make sure you are preparing them for winter. Avoid pruning and stop fertilizing after early August which stimulates growth. Stop deadheading in early September to allow rose hips (seeds) to form.

When the ground freezes over, you will want to add about six to twelve inches of mulch around the plant to keep the ground at a consistent and safe temperature. If you are in a windy area, loosely tie together any tall rose canes to prevent breakage and other damage or trim down the taller canes that can act as a sail in the wind.

Planting in Winter

You might think that winter isn’t a great time to plant, but some plants thrive in the winter. As you winterize your garden it is also a great time to consider adding winter plants that thrive in colder temperatures and create pops of color. Just because our Portland weather becomes a little gray and rainy in winter doesn’t mean your garden needs to be!

With a little planning, you can remove the green beans and plant green kale and other vibrant winter plants. Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to make sure you are choosing the right plants for the Portland climate. Winter is also a great time to transplant while plants are dormant.

Blessing Landscapes: A Different Kind of Landscaping Company

At Blessing Landscapes, we’re all about helping you achieve a beautiful, sustainable landscape throughout every season. We do more than just design and install landscapes. We take the time that’s needed to truly understand your unique property, preferences, lifestyle, and goals. Our process is designed to provide a smooth experience and make sure you understand your existing landscape and all your options. We offer the full range of landscaping services, including:

Ready to get started? Call us at (503) 284-3557 or contact us online and tell us how we can help!