Putting the Garden to Bed for Winter

Last Updated on April 1, 2021 by Ellen Christian

Those of you that live in the south may be wondering why I’m writing about putting the garden to bed for winter in the middle of September. Unfortunately, here in Vermont, winter is not that far away. As a matter of fact, we had our first hard frost last winter. Usually we don’t get the first hard frost till the middle of October so we are definitely ahead of time. Note that this advice is based on my experience in zone 4/5. This post contains affiliate links.

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How to put your garden to bed for the winter

Putting the Garden to Bed for Winter

So, what is involved in putting the garden to bed for winter? Basically, putting the garden to bed involves a good fall clean up so that your garden is healthy next spring. You’ll appreciate the work now when spring time comes around next year.

Putting the garden to bed for winter - vegetables


  • Leave root crops in the garden so they can continue growing as long as the ground is not frozen (carrots, parsnips, onions, radishes, etc.).
  • Pull up your summer crops (tomatoes, peppers, summer squash). If they are free of disease and harmful insects, toss them in the compost. If not, burn them.
  • Weed the garden thoroughly before the ground freezes to get rid of any insect eggs so they don’t hatch next year.
  • Gently dig up the soil to expose any bugs that may be trying to over winter under the soil.
  • If you use compost, now is the time to add it. We add in a layer of chicken compost and let it sit all winter long to mellow.
  • If you have a real problem with weeds, cover the top of the garden with black plastic or cardboard and weigh it down. This will kill any seeds over the winter.

Putting the garden to bed for winter - herbs


  • Hardy perennial herbs like sage or thyme should over winter with no problems and no special attention. Trim to about 3″ tall.
  • Tender perennials should be dug up and brought inside to over winter in a pot in a sunny window.
  • Annuals should be removed and their growing space treated as you would vegetables above.

Putting the garden to bed for winter - flowers


  • After a killing frost, annuals should be removed and composted or burned.
  • Clean up any pots and planters and store away for next year.
  • Cut back perennials to 3″ and cover them with a good layer of leaves or straw.
  • Move any potted perennials to a protected location and cover them with straw until spring. We put ours in the garden shed or basement.
  • Stop fertilizing rose beds six weeks before the projected last frost date for your area. Remove anything dead or diseased. After the first frost, mulch heavily.
  • Fall is the time to plant spring bulbs. So if you want tulips, daffodils or hyacinth, plant them now.

13 thoughts on “Putting the Garden to Bed for Winter”

  1. Sadly, we did not have a garden this year, but I am definitely saving these great tips for next year! Thank you for the reminder to plant my bulbs!!
  2. Great tips that help have it ready for the next year.  I'm guilty of waiting until spring to do all the work and then it's a huge deterrent to start a garden.  
  3. I'm in the south but have definitely starting putting thought into what to do with my garden. It wasn't as successful as I hoped (my first one) but I figure no need in letting my progress go to waste
  4. Living in Southern California, we have minimal cold snaps and can garden through most of the year- but we have to rotate vegetable patches seasonally. Thanks for the good pointers.
  5. Hard to believe that it's time again to put the garden up for the winter..WOW feels like yesterday we pulled it out. Great tips Ellen, thanks for sharing, can't wait to get your spring tips for a new garden soon.

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