Five tips for your early winter garden in Western New York

red rose in early winter garden in Western New York
We’ve had snow, yet I still have a few roses blooming. Finding a lovely surprise like that is enough reason to get outside and walk around your early winter garden. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko


by Connie Oswald Stofko

According to the calendar, we still have another month until the official start of winter, but I think gardeners will agree that winter has arrived in Western New York. Here are five tips for your early winter garden.

Go outside and walk around in your garden

While your garden probably doesn’t look as spectacular as is it did in July, you might find some lovely surprises, like the the red rose above that I spotted in my garden! The sun was shining, which was pleasant, plus I got some vitamin D. And if you don’t walk around your garden, how will you know what needs to be done?

Start planning for next year

What are those big projects you really want to do in your landscape? Do you want to install a deck, path or water feature? Maybe you need a cohesive design.

Don’t wait until May to get started!

Now is the time to get estimates for landscaping jobs, and earlier in autumn is actually better. It’s easier for landscapers to make a plan before the snow is deep.

Where should you start? See landscapers in our Gardening Directory.

And check out the garden centers and other gardening businesses as you look for holiday items and gifts.

Create a holding area for potted perennials

This tip is from Kathy Shadrack, who does communications for the Buffalo Area Daylily Society. If you have pots of daylilies or other perennials that you haven’t gotten around to planting in the ground yet, create a holding bed.

You can also do this with perennials that you intend to continue to grow in containers. It will help get them through the winter.

“My theory is that by pushing them together and mulching all around, the plant doesn’t know it isn’t planted in the ground!” Shadrack said.

She has an area surrounded by logs. I think the logs are a good idea because they will help to hold the mulch in place. Set the pots in that area as close together as you can, then stuff mulch around each one.

Shadrack suggests using cedar mulch because she has the notion (totally unproven, she admits) that cedar mulch repels mice and voles.

shrub branch bent by snow
Don’t let heavy, wet snow ruin your shrubs. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

The size of the pot depends on the plant. She has had success with even small pots.

“I have tiny pots up to several gallons,” Shadrack said.

After the pots are frozen, she mulches over the tops to prevent them from thawing.

Knock wet, heavy snow off branches

Heavy, wet snow can break branches on your shrubs and leave unsightly holes.

Use a stick or your shovel to gently–gently!– tap off the snow. This is a task you may have to repeat throughout the winter.

Pull weeds

Every so often we get a mild day and you want to do something outside. If the ground isn’t frozen or covered with snow, you can pull weeds. My view is that the more grass and other plants you can get out of your garden now, the fewer you will have to deal with in the spring.

Bonus tip: Get more ideas here for what you can do in your garden at this time of year.


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