Shutting Down Your Garden

There are many ways on how to prepare your garden for Ottawa’s cold season: tidying up, cutting back, planting certain species of plants for fall season, weather proofing & preparing for your garden to awaken in the spring. If you want to minimize the work you have to do in spring, getting your garden in shape is pertinent. Removing debris, dying plants, or iradicating a pest problem will assure a healthy garden in the next season.

Here are some tips on shutting down your garden for the winter season.

Cutting Back Your Plants.

If you’re new to gardening, cutting back your plants may not be something you’re used to doing. But if you’re a seasoned gardener, you probably know all about this and the importance of cutting back your plants before the first snowfall. Do some research on your perennials before hacking away in your garden. Many species of plants have different pruning requirements and cutting back may not be necessary until spring. Waiting until the spring season to prune plants like: lavender, asters, or hostas can be beneficial to your garden as they will provide food & shelter for birds and insects that are beneficial to your garden. It also adds some character to your winter landscape.

Wait to cut back your plants until you see them dying due to frost. A lot of gardeners (even good ones) make this mistake. They want to clean up that messy chaotic and deathly looking scape a little too early. Waiting until the fost finishes them off, can assure that your plants won’t continue to grow, only to die and fall off due to cold weather and weaken the entire plant. If you’re not sure about which plant to start cutting back first, begin with the plants that look diseased or dying. Avoid cutting back your woody plants, trees, and shrubs until they’re dormant.

If you don’t want to have to worry about cutting back your garden every season, look for plants that are evergreen to put in your garden. Evergreen plants like: yew, hemlock, and cedar are great plants with less upkeep.

When choosing the right plants for your garden, always keep in mind the diversity and harmony the plants you choose bring to your garden. You don’t want to create something that’s visually unappealing to the eye. If you’re having a hard time with your landscape design, or picking the right plants for your space, just shoot me an email here.

Tidying Up your Garden

When fall arrives, that means it’s time to dispose of those dead and declining annuals which we deeply love. Yes, they may look decent and you want to save them, but annuals will not survive the harsh Ottawa weather. Be certain to remove any weeds in your garden, trim overgrown areas, and any other waste leftover in your garden.

In addition to your garden maintenance, don’t forget to clean your garden tools and store anything that will rust or get wet during the winter season. It is very tempting to throw everything into your shed or garage, but tool maintenance is an important part of shutting down your garden. This is the perfect time to clean, disinfect and sharpen your tools, as well as organize your work space. Don’t forget to lubricate your tools before you store them so they are fresh for the upcoming season.


Just because it’s time to shut down your garden doesn’t mean the planting stops. Before the snow completely takes over your garden, get your flowering bulbs into the ground. The best time to plant your tulips and daffodils here in Ottawa is beginning to mid november but the last few years due to Global warming I’ve been putting mine in as late as december. You want the ground to stay cool enough that even the direct sun does not change the soil too much, you want to be sure the squirrels and chippies have calmed down enough that they don’t get eaten. Also the ground still has to be workable so there really is a goldielocks time of year to get those bulbs in the ground.

Fall is the perfect time to plant shrubs and trees as all the energy is diverted into the roots. You can plant trees and shrubs up until the ground freezes.

A lot of people think that if you have any plants that are still looking lively you can simply put them in a pot and bring them indoors. In most cases this is not true and when it is true you have to transition the plant to the new indoor environment gradually by putting it in at night and out in the day and then shorter and shorter increments until it is in a similarly lit space for the winter. Even then, the dryer conditions from your furnace will cause the plant to struggle so unless you have a specific place in your home designed for keeping plants throughout the winter, you may be disappointed.

Some plants that are not necessarily tropical but do need to go dormant can be put down in your cold storage for the winter. The best example that most gardeners can relate to is the beautiful dahlia bulb. My grandma used to pack them in peat moss or sand in reused coke boxes or trays and store them in an area that stays between 4-7 degrees celsius. But I like to store them in a styrofoam ice chest. I separate the roots from each other with perlite. And I never have any rotting in the spring. Also the Styrofoam chest stabilizes any fluctuations in my cold storage that can happen if a draft breaks in or a door is left open.

Weather Proofing

Protecting your beautiful plants from the cold season is crucial to a beautiful garden next season. You should shield plants that animals might find as a tasty snack, especially when food is hard to find in the winter. Put guards around those trees & shrubs as deer, rabbits, and other animals love them.

Additionally, make sure all of those tender bulbs are dug up and stored before the frost gets to them. Move any plants that might get damaged due to heavy storms, winds or rain. It’s also a good idea to give your plants some extra insulation and add a layer of mulch to the top before the first snowfall.

If you have potted hostas you should bring them into the garage, its ok if they freeze but you don’t want them to get damaged by the warming and cooling of sun bathed pots that can create rotting and destroy the hosta. Keep potted hostas in a dark dry freezing place until spring then bring them out just before the last couple frosts.

It’s common for gardeners to overlook this step, especially if you’re a newcomer. New or old, every gardener should take precautions and ensure their plant’s safety. Come springtime, you will be glad you safeguarded your plants from the past brutal months

Shutting Down Your Pond

If you have a pond or water feature in your garden, it’s also important to shut it down correctly to assure an easy set up next spring. Clean out your water feature and make sure that it’s always clean of debris, twigs and or leaves. Turn off any waterfall feature and remove any glass, wood, or metal components. Remove any pumps, tubes, and/or extension cords that may get damaged during the winter months. If you have a Koi pond, make sure you take out your fish and place them in an aquarium; depending on how deep your pond is, taking them out may not be necessary. Also consider a pond netting that will help you get the leaves out of the water as soon as the ice thaws.

Preparing For Spring

After learning about cutting back your plants, tidying up, planting, organizing and weather proofing your garden, it’s safe to say that shutting down your garden will be much easier. But as you prepare for the cold weather, frost, and an abundance of snow, don’t forget the little details which will make for an easy opening in the spring. There are several things you can do to get ahead on your springtime gardening. For example, label any new additions to your garden so they are tended to first when spring comes. And tag anything that you might want to divide in the spring. (hostas especially)

Prepare your planting beds by adding some fresh compost. Add your compost during late fall as the freezing and thawing of ice will help get all the nutrients into the soil. Do not forget to churn your soil, this will get rid of any bugs that are trying to find a home in your garden.

Want me to shut down your garden?

If you are still finding it difficult to shut down your garden, don’t hesitate to give me a call. I am here to help with any questions you may have regarding your garden or pond. At Carving Eden, we strive for customer satisfaction and we can’t wait to hear from you.

Get in touch with us at: 613-703-2467

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