As the days grow shorter and the first night of frost isn’t far away, your plants need special protection if they are outside. After all, fall is when you can make sure you have beautiful, green and blooming flowers and shrubs next year.

Snow or no snow? It’s the same question every winter. But no matter whether it will be a white Christmas, your plants need the right protection to make it through the cold season and come back bursting with life in spring. One way to save yourself a lot of work – and to avoid losing plants – is to plant cold-hardy species in the first place. But buyer beware – if a plant is advertised as cold-hardy, this can mean a variety of things. It may simply mean that a plant has a chance to survive outside in certain conditions (for instance, no moisture when it’s freezing, no extended frost periods, no temperatures below a certain point). These plants are sometimes called half-hardy. Some plants are so robust that they will definitely make it through winter. But some sellers add caveats here as well. All in all, it is a good idea to find out in advance what conditions your plants might have to endure, and what their individual requirements are.
 

The first step towards winter is to cut the flowers.

The first step towards winter is to cut the flowers.

Get rid of any branches

Get rid of any branches

Protecting your Garden

Fall is here, get out the pruning shears: The first step towards winter-proofing your garden is to prune fruit-bearing trees, bushes, and shrubs. Get rid of any leafless, sick, or dead branches – ideally before it starts freezing, so that the cuts can heal. You can even make good use of the wood you cut off: simply put it through a wood chipper or chop it up yourself to create mulch, which is perfect for covering the roots of more sensitive plants for the next half year.

On to the flowerbeds: more sensitive bulbs (such as Dahlia or Begonia) should be lifted and stored in a dry and dark place. Perennial plants that have died down can be cut back and otherwise left alone for the winter. Last but not least, this is the right time to plant a fantastic spring bloom: Make sure you plant bulbs of early bloomers such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinths or crocuses before the first frost.

You should also clear any fallen leaves off your lawn. Otherwise, you run the risk of having the grass rot and turn brown. Raked leaves can be used to insulate flower beds or left in a pile as a cozy winter home for hedgehogs.
 

Keeping Potted Plants Nice and Warm

Potted plants – no matter how large or small – always raise the question of whether to leave them outside with a little extra protection or bring them inside for the winter? This depends on how cold-hardy the respective flowers or plants are. Sensitive plants such as Mediterranean oleanders or olive trees should be brought inside, as should planters with Geraniums or Fuchsia. Make sure to check for lice and other parasites first so they cannot spread unchecked all over the winter shelter.

Less frost-sensitive plants can stay outside – just be sure to wrap them up in fleece or bubble wrap. Take care to only cover the sides and bottoms of the pots; the soil still needs to get fresh air. You can also cover the top with some small twigs. And don’t forget: winter also has dry days. Check whether the soil is still moist enough and water as needed. Use less water than during summer to account for the lower rate of evaporation. It is also important to drain all water from the pot saucers to make sure it doesn’t freeze and damage the roots. Ideally, do your watering during the day when temperatures are the highest to avoid frost damage.