Gardening with Allen: Some basic steps provide winter garden protection




Allen Wilson is a Vancouver gardening specialist. Email Allen Wilson at

What are some of the things I need to do in the garden for winter protection?

Fortunately, our climate is mild enough that we don’t need to do a lot of winter plant protection.

Trees, shrubs and other perennial plants growing in containers can be damaged because their roots are less protected than when they are planted in the ground. It is best to move them into a somewhat sheltered area such as under a roof overhang or patio cover. Even next to a building out of the wind gives some protection.

Plants that survive in the ground may have roots frozen in exposed containers. There is no large mass of surrounding soil to buffer cold temperatures, so temperatures in containers drop much lower and roots can be killed. Water plants well and check monthly so they do not dry out during the winter. If they are in a covered area, the rain will not reach them.

Expansion from freezing soil can cause ceramic or other breakable containers to crack and break. It is best to empty soil mixes from annual containers and start with fresh soil next year. Spread container soil over flower beds or vegetable gardens and mix them in next spring. Even non-breakable containers will weather the winter better if stored inside.

Hoses should be drained and stored inside for the winter. If left attached, water can back up in faucets and freeze and crack them. Repeated freezing and thawing of hoses left outside can damage and shorten their life. Faucets can be protected with insulated covers.

Power equipment such as mowers, trimmers and tillers should have gasoline drained from tanks. Then, equipment should be run until all gas is used in the engine. This prevents gas from evaporating and leaving a sticky residue which gums up engine parts. Blades and tines should be cleaned and wiped or sprayed with oil to prevent rust. If equipment needs repairs or sharpening, now is a good time to take them to a repair shop when they are not so busy.

Metal parts of hand tools should also be cleaned and oiled. Wooden handles can be rubbed with linseed oil to reduce cracking and slivers. Inside storage will also keep tools from deteriorating.

Leaves can continue to be piled in an unused corner. Sprinkling a little lawn fertilizer will help them to break down into compost over winter.

If you have not applied lime to your lawn in the last year, now would be a good time to do so. Lime can be applied at a rate of 25 to 50 pounds per 1000 square feet. If you are not sure of the size of your lawns, just measure approximate length by width of each piece. Length X width in feet = square feet.

Allen Wilson is a Vancouver gardening specialist. Email Allen Wilson at