Winter Protection 101

All year you’ve worked on creating an outdoor oasis; now it’s time to protect it.

As temperatures cool down, there are some tasks to help your garden survive the winter. Here’s our guide to winter protection, or ‘winterizing’ your outdoor space.

Getting Started

  • Empty clay, ceramic, fibreglass and summer plastic pots. Store them safely inside. If they are left outside through the freeze-thaw cycles, there is a good chance they will crack.
  • Concrete or ceramic birdbaths can be turned upside down so the water cannot collect in it. There is an option to use a birdbath heater to provide birds with a constant source of fresh water all winter long.
  • Turn the bowl(s) of your fountain upside down as well or use a fountain cover.

  • Clean, oil, sharpen, and repair all garden tools before storing. Rub linseed oil onto wooden handles to prevent cracks.
  • Empty sprayers and wash out with hot soapy water.
  • Add a gas preservative or empty the gas tank on your lawnmower and gas trimmer.
  • Before turning off the water, give garden beds, trees and the lawn a proper watering. Ensure outdoor water lines are turned off to prevent pipes from cracking during the cold winter months.

Lawn tip: Apply Parkwood® 10-0-14 Fall to strengthen roots, blades and build up disease resistance. Make the last cut of the season shorter than usual. Rake all leaves off the lawn before snowfall. Read more about fall lawn care.

Annuals & Perennials

  • Remove all annuals from garden beds and containers. Decaying plants provide a nesting site for insects to overwinter.

Hostas divided with a shovel

  • Some perennials need to be cut back close to the ground level in late fall. You can leave plants that bloom late summer until spring. Consider dividing spring blooming perennials if you have any that are overgrown, or an area that is starting to look cramped.

Trees

Protect tree trunks from assorted rodents, rabbits and deer that enjoy eating the bark of shrubs and trees like crab apple and fruit trees during winter by placing a spiral plastic tree guard around the base. You can also spray Skoot (a non-toxic bitter-tasting deterrent) on the bark of the tree.

Evergreens

Christmas evergreen fir-tree branches with fresh natural snow. Winter frost background

To keep the branches of junipers and cedars upright, purchase plastic mesh and spiral down the full length of the evergreen. Trees that are damaged from the weight of snow and ice won’t snap back into place in spring and will need to be pruned off.

Rhododendrons

Rhododendrons, as well as holly, Oregon grape, mountain-laurel, and Japanese pieris, are prone to windburn. If you notice brown, burnt leaves in spring due to windburn or sunscald, you will need to take precautions.

Rhododendron leafs and buds covered with rime frost with more of the plant in the background

• Surround rhododendrons with burlap stapled to sturdy garden stakes.
• Leave the top of the tent open and place a thick layer of leaves or chopped conifer branches to help insulate the root zone and preserve moisture to the soil.
• You can also spray Wiltpruf on the foliage to seal moisture in the leaves while still allowing the plant to breathe.

Roses

  • Clean up all the dead leaves mid to late November and trim hybrid roses back to about 1m (36”).
  • Surround the base of your floribunda, hybrid tea, grandiflora, or English roses with an adjustable rose collar. Bury it about 2.5 cm (1”) into the ground where it will firmly freeze into place.

Winter Rose Hip

  • Pack a mixture that’s half garden soil, and half composted cattle manure or Parkwood 3-in-1 into the collar. The hut can be dug 2.5 cm (1”) into the ground or place a heavy rock on top.
  • Shrub and climbing roses do not need to be pruned back at all but pack garden soil and manure solidly against the base, called hilling.

Water Gardens

  • Rotting leaves at the bottom of a pond are a significant cause of algae. Avoid letting leaves accumulate in your pond and place a mesh tarp over the pond to catch falling leaves.
  • Hardy aquatic plants can be placed at the bottom of the pond to overwinter.
  • Tropical water lilies need to be removed, trimmed back, and stored in a cool dark basement. Keep covered with wet burlap; do not let them dry out.

Frost and Snow Covered Garden

  • All ponds should not be emptied in autumn. The weight of the water will keep the pond firmly in the ground and prevent it from popping out. The pond can be drained in the spring and refilled. Be sure to remove any equipment such as pumps, jets, lights, and the transformer. Wipe them clean and store in a dry place.
  • If you plan to over-winter fish in your water garden, ensure the ice is kept open with a de-icer in one area to allow the carbon dioxide and methane gas to escape.