Should You Fertilize Your Garden in Winter - Backyard Boss
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Should You Fertilize Your Garden in Winter

Do you love the feeling of fresh dirt between your fingers? The joys of gardening are endless, and whether you’re a new or experienced gardener, there’s always something new to learn. For example- should you add fertilizer to your garden in the winter?

When it comes to caring for your garden, there are a lot of things you can do in winter to help ensure its success come spring. Here are some tips on if and when to fertilize your garden so you can get the most out of it! Keep reading to learn more!

Fertilizing Your Garden in the Winter- Good or Bad Idea?

The answer is – it depends! There are two schools of thought. Some experts say giving select garden plants a boost if they’re not doing so well is a great idea, while other experts disagree. Ultimately, the decision on whether to fertilize or not depends on the health of your plants and your climate.

Trees and Shrubs

Image credits: 1c41873f_952 via Canva

If you notice that your established trees and shrubs are looking a little off-color or aren’t producing as many flowers or fruit as they normally do, it might be time to give them a little boost.

Late fall (late October, before the ground freezes) is actually the perfect time to apply slow-release nitrogen fertilizer because it helps bring nutrients back into the soil before winter sets in. If you think your trees or shrubs could use some extra love this season, go ahead and fertilize them now! Just be sure not to overdo it or have it become routine. Too much fertilizer can actually harm plants rather than help them grow.

Fun Fact – late fall fertilizer is also great for lawns!

Rose Bushes

Climbing roses on trellis
Image credits: Kieran Somerville via Unsplash

There is a lot of misinformation out there about when you should and shouldn’t fertilize your rose bushes. Some people believe that you should never fertilize them in the winter, while others think it’s fine to do so.

Generally speaking, if you live in an area with cold winters and your roses are dormant during this time, then it is best to avoid fertilizing them until spring comes around. This will allow your bushes to focus all their energy on getting ready for the new growing season instead of having to deal with extra nutrients that can be difficult for them to process in the colder months.


Red chrysanthemums for fall blooming perennials
Image credits: Hajnal Oltyan via Unsplash

Most times, you can stick with a moderate application of slow-release nitrogen for your perennials, taking care not to damage the roots when applying it. And if your plants still look a little off after you’ve applied the fertilizer, it’s important to be patient. Give your plants a little time to recover from their treatment and they’ll be back to looking their best in no time!

Although, some say to leave the fertilizer alone in late summer or early fall due to new growth that can form and not mature in time for hard weather.

Winter Care Tips for Your Garden

Winter can be a tough time for gardens, as the cold temperatures and heavy snowfall can take a serious toll on your plants and flowers. To help keep your garden healthy and thriving during the winter months, there are a few key care tips that you should keep in mind.


Watering Roses
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The fall months are the perfect time to water your trees and shrubs. As temperatures start to cool, it’s natural to think that watering should stop too.

However, this isn’t true! In fact, cooler weather can actually be a stressful time for many drought-intolerant plants. That’s why it’s important to continue to water trees and evergreens deeply once a week if rainfall is lacking. Then, stop watering once the ground freezes.

Protecting Against the Wind

Shelter roses for the winter
Image credits: Tasha-photo via Shutterstock

Regardless of where you live, winter winds pose a significant threat to the health of your garden. Especially if you have young, and not yet established plants.

These cold gusts can dry out your plants, causing them to lose the moisture they need for growth and survival. In addition, salt sprays can also damage trees that are growing near major roads or highways.

Luckily, there is a simple and affordable way to protect your evergreens from these harsh winter winds: burlap screens! Constructed of burlap fabric stretched between wooden posts, these windbreaks allow in all essential light and moisture while protecting your plants from drying winds.

One strong caveat – don’t allow the burlap to touch the plants underneath. The freeze that is atop the burlap may burn the plants inside.

Fixing Your Soil

Woman working on her garden in raised garden bed holding handfull of fertile soil.
Image credits: Gajus via Shutterstock

When your soil test shows a high pH level, you know that it’s time to take action. One of the easiest ways to lower pH levels is to incorporate granulated sulfur into the soil of acid-loving plants such as fothergilla, hydrangea, rhododendron, azalea, or blueberry. You can reapply in the spring for best results.

You can also grow cover crops that will mend the soil leaving you with a healthy base come spring.


Wood chips mulch
Image credits: Maria Evseyeva via Shutterstock

Looking for the perfect way to protect your trees and perennials? Mulch! Spread a 2 to 3-inch layer of shredded bark over the entire root zone of your trees. Not only does this mulch help insulate and protect your tree’s roots, but it also helps retain moisture in the soil. For perennials, it’s best to mulch with a 2 to 3-inch layer of oak after the ground has frozen solid.

But be sure not to go overboard with “volcano mulching.” When you start piling up the mulch near the trunk of your tree, you run the risk of encouraging pests and insects to take shelter there or creating conditions that are favorable to fungal infections.

Deer and Rodents

Roe deer urinating
Image credits: Matauw via Canva

If you’re looking to protect your garden from deer, a great strategy is to use fencing or netting. You can wall off entire sections of your garden that deer favor most. Another option is wrapping smooth-barked trees in order to deter young bucks from rubbing their antlers on them. While commercial and homemade repellents may provide some temporary relief, barriers are by far the best way to keep these creatures out of your prized plants.

If you’re worried about rodents in your garden, there are a few simple steps you can take to protect your plants. First of all, look for places where mice or voles might be overwintering. This could be piles of brush or leaves, woodpiles, and other areas that provide shelter from the elements and protection from predators. For example, if ornamental grasses are planted next to crabapple trees, rodents will happily overwinter in the dried grasses as they nibble on the bark of the crabapple tree throughout the cold season.

Next, cut down any ornamental grasses and perennials to eliminate any nesting areas for these pesky rodents.

The best way to protect your tree trunks from critters is to encircle them with a hardware cloth 3 inches away from the trunk.

It’s also important to make sure that snow doesn’t pile up around the tree trunks; rodents often travel above or below the snow line, so if there is a layer of heavy snow it can attract their attention.

Lastly, if you use evergreen boughs as mulch in your perennial garden, be aware that this may encourage rodents looking for winter refuge.

In Summary

As you can see, whether you’re a new or experienced gardener, there’s always something new to learn. While winter is a great time to give your plants a boost, it’s also important to winterize your garden so it can thrive in the spring.

Make sure to share this article with your friends and family who garden as they’ll appreciate the tips! Do you have any tips or tricks for fertilizing your garden in the winter? Leave a comment below!