Preparing Flower Beds for Winter

Plant Debris

One of the essential tasks of winter preparation is to remove dead heads and plant debris from the flower beds. Not only does this make the flower beds look better but it removes many of the winter hiding places for insects. This debris should be thrown away, not thrown in the compost pile.

Organic Material

Once the annuals are removed, you’re ready to add organic material to the soil. This can be manure or compost. If you chose to use manure, you can find bags at your local gardening center, or you can check with nearby farmers. Just be sure it is “aged” manure–not fresh.

Compost is easily made from kitchen scraps and soil. You can have a compost pile, use a compost barrel, or simply work the material directly into the flower bed.

You’ll want to use a rotary tiller to incorporate the organic matter into the dirt. While it may be tempting to buy a large tiller, if you have bulbs, you’ll want to use something more delicate. There are several smaller-sized tillers on the market. If you use one of these to work your way around the bulbs, you’re less likely to ruin your spring flowers.

Remove Bulbs

Depending on what zone you live in, you may need to dig up your bulbs and store them inside for the winter. Check with your local extension service for their recommendation.

The first step is to cut the foliage down. Leave 3 to 4 inches above ground to help you locate the bulbs. Now you can dig up the root ball. Shake off as much dirt as you can. They don’t have to be washed-with-a-hose clean, you just want to get the majority of the clumps off. As you pull the root ball apart, you’ll want to check for signs of rot.

Lay newspaper out on your garage floor and spread the bulbs out so they can dry for a day or two. Remove the remaining foliage from the tops. Now you can store them in a cardboard box or paper bag for the winter. Make sure they don’t touch while in storage. Packing them with sawdust will help.