Wintertime Woes: Ways to Protect Your Garden and Landscape During Colder Months


It’s hard to believe the sweltering heat of summer took place a few months ago. Perhaps you are content to continue resting and recovering from the long, hot, laborious days that met you with every sunrise. The garden is now tucked far away beneath a blanket of snow—insulated and hibernating for the season—and you’re okay with that. Just a couple more months of rest will do and then you’ll be ready to get back at it.

On the other hand, maybe the wintertime blues have caught up and you’re in desperate need of the garden. If that resonates (especially if you’re new to the Treasure Valley), keep in mind that this season is necessary for our plants to go through their natural life cycles. Even though it’s a time of much dormancy, there are a few things you can still get done during these winter days in preparation for the growing season ahead.

First thing’s first, snow brings numerous benefits to the landscape in the winter months. Did you know that snow is nature’s mulch because it insulates the soil and plants? Blankets of snow protect root systems and prevent freezing temperatures from reaching too deep into the soil. Because of this factor, snow also protects plants from temperature fluctuations. Without snow, warm winter days might encourage premature growth in perennials and bulbs, only to devastate plant health with the next cold spell.

Snow also preserves soil moisture and aids in plant health through dormancy. It’s important to water in the winter if you planted during the fall. Snow, however, takes on that responsibility as it melts.

Note: Don’t totally rely on the snow to take care of your watering. Periodically check to make sure the surrounding soil around your new plants is moist and reaches deeper than the surface. You can check with a soil probe or by jamming a screwdriver into the root ball. If the screwdriver sinks into the soil easily, chances are there’s enough moisture below the surface. Also, avoid watering when temperatures are below freezing.

Fun fact: The Farmer’s Almanac considers snow the “poor man’s fertilizer”. As snow falls, nitrogen from the atmosphere attaches to snowflakes. As the snow melts,
nitrogen is slowly released into the ground!  

Outside Tasks:

Now that we have the benefits of snow covered, let’s talk about some garden and landscape tasks that work great for the Boise area.

1.)   Brush off heavy snow

While the initial beauty of snow-covered trees might leave you entranced, it’s important to help the structural integrity of trees and shrubs. Next time you’re in need of some fresh air or when you go out to shovel the driveway, grab a broom and gently brush off fragile branches. It’s okay to leave snow that covers any low plants for the sake of insulation.

2.)   Evaluate the garden

A bare landscape presents the perfect opportunity to evaluate what you’re missing or what needs improvement. Get outside with a notebook and jot down what you see. Ask yourself questions.

What’s the most interesting part of the garden right now? What do I wish I had more of? What colors do I see? How’s the height variation throughout the landscape? How many textures are present?     

Boise landscaping is great because of the four-season interest. When planning and designing a landscape, it’s important to factor in every season. There are many plants out there that offer multi-season interest, including winter. Need help figuring out which ones work best for your landscape and Idaho’s climate? Our garden center has a friendly and
knowledgeable staff who would love to help you out. 

Now is not the time to prune, but it is a great time to assess branching habits, especially on deciduous trees and shrubs. When the time for pruning does roll around, you’ll have a better idea of where to start. Read more about the basics of pruning here.

Inside Tasks:

With Idaho, you never know what weather is lurking around the corner. Conditions we face in December one year might not be true until February the following year. Regardless, even the most ambitious gardeners are
driven inside at some point.

1.)   Set personal goals

Reflect on what worked this last season and what didn’t. Was there anything you particularly enjoyed that you’d like to bring to the landscape again? What about anything you were too scared to try? Challenge yourself! Set realistic and attainable goals, even if they’re small.

2.)   Garden planning/designing

There’s no better time to plan than right now. Whether it’s a simple vegetable garden sketch or a professional landscape design, getting ideas on paper and dreaming big are great ways to get the creativity flowing. Make your visions become a reality this year.

Flip through garden magazines and see what’s trending for 2022. Make note of what you like.

3.)   Seed catalogs

Order seeds sooner than later. Peruse seed catalogs and plan what kind of garden you want to grow or try this season. Franz Witte proudly carries Snake River Seeds for all your vegetable and cut flower garden needs.  

4.)   Clean tools

Don’t let dirty tools slow you down once it’s time to get up and going again. Make repairs, clean tools off, and neatly store them for the upcoming season while you have the time.

Having been a local landscape company for over 50 years now, we’ve had our fair share of winters. Some mild and some…not so much. We’re here to help! Whether you have questions about which plants survive through the winter, snow removal, proper landscape care, or anything of the sort, you can call us at (208) 853-0808.

Set yourself up for success this season. The plants may be sleeping but you don’t have to. The sooner you get on top of the simple tasks the more time you’ll have to enjoy the growing season—which will be here before any of us know it! 

By Riley Rehberg

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