Putting Away Outdoor Plants for Winter

The gardens outside are just about buttoned up for winter.  I took advantage of the cold temperatures this week to heel in the last of the plants I wanted to save for next year.

The only plants left were some of the potted trees that I’m saving for  bonsai and other projects.  In addition to my 15 years old bonsai, I tucked away a few Alberta spruce, some maples, a couple of tamarack and a small assortment of other potted trees.  I leave them out as long as possible to shorten the time they have to stay in storage.

There’s a nice sheltered area in our yard under some pine trees where the plants spend the winter.

I start out preparing an overwintering spot by digging a shallow hole that is about half the diameter of the pot. The pot goes into the hole sideways so that the plant is lying right on the ground.  I take the soil dug from the hole and cover the pot.

Next, I cover the buried pot and the top of the plant with mulch.  Usually I can rake up enough pine needles to do the job.  This year I decided to use wheat straw because of the number of plants I had.

My success rate has been quite high using this method.  Placing the pot on its side keeps out excess water that may freeze and damage the pot.  Laying the trees on the ground protects the branches from the wind and extreme temperatures.  The mulch protects the plants from exposure to the winter sun, which can dry out small branches.  Moreover, it serves as blanket to protect the plants in case we don’t get snow cover.  To finish it off I cover everything with some old wire garden fencing to help keep the straw in place.

The soil hasn’t frozen yet and the plants haven’t been exposed to really cold temperatures so there is still time to get those valuable plants tucked in for winter.


Old garden fencing helps keep the wind from blowing the straw away.



Bob Dluzen
As a result of being a gardener for more than 40 years, 30 of those as a professional, Bob's gardening has become an integral part of his life. "It's the ever-changing seasons and the wide variety of plants and gardens that keeps me intrigued," he says. Bob lives and gardens in rural Monroe County.