Prepare Plants Now for Winter

Originally appeared in The Cape Codder Home Improvement Special Section
Summer is winding down and before we know it fall will be here. As the days get shorter and the temperatures get cooler, it’s time to start preparing your landscape for the winter season. Here are a few things you can do this fall to make sure your plants are prepared and ready to go in the spring.


As we all know, plants need water to survive and being properly watered in the fall will also help them to survive the winter. Watering deeply once a week or so during late summer and early fall will help plants prepare for the winter months and resist damage from winter desiccation. Watering should be done through October.


Fall is a good time to mulch around plants if it hasn’t been done already, or to renew it if the mulch is old. A good bark mulch will help to retain moisture around the plant as well as protect the root zone from extreme soil temperatures. It will also add compost and nutrients to the soil as it breaks down and support beneficial soil microorganisms that will support the health of the plant.



Fertilizing woody plants in the fall will help them store nutrients through the winter that they will use for new growth in the spring. Follow the label and use the normal rate of application for the fertilizer you decide to use. Do not over-fertilize to avoid causing new growth that will be killed off in the winter. Products such as Plant-Tone and Holly-Tone work well for this purpose.
Testing the soil PH and making any necessary corrections, such as adding limestone or other soil amendments, can be done in the fall also.
Extra care should be given to plants that were defoliated by caterpillars this season. Replacing the leaves that they lost uses up extra nutrients that they then need to regain somehow. If at all feasible, these plants should be watered once or twice a week through October and fertilized in the fall to help them do better next spring when they leaf out.


Fall can also be a good time to do some corrective pruning, such as removing dead, diseased or damaged branches. Removing any diseased branches and leaves from around plants that had disease issues this season can help to lower the potential for reinfection next year.


When working outside in your landscape during the fall, care should still be given to watch out for ticks. They are still active, mainly through November in our area, but can also be active in the colder months when the temperature is above freezing. Tick checks and other measures should be taken to ensure that you are not bitten.
Chad Thomas is owner of The Cape Cod Plant Doctor. For more information, visit or contact him at or 508-385-4895.