Because I work for a team of Aberdeen landscape gardeners I know all about winter gardening – believe me! When the cold weather approaches, a gardener's work seems to be winding down. It's true, you have a lot less to do in the garden in winter. If you want to enjoy another great year of gardening when winter is finally over, though, you can invest a little effort in preparing your plants and soil to weather the cold months properly. Here are some great ways to bundle your garden up for winter.

One of the most obvious gardening tasks you'll have with the arrival of winter weather is pulling up the plants that die off. To minimize the hassle involved in this process, be patient and let your whole garden die down. It'll take less effort to clear the ground entirely, in one big stroke. Also, letting some of the organic material from your dead plants kick-start the natural decomposition process improves the long-term health of your soil. As you'll soon see, winter garden preparation is all about caring for your soil.

Before your garden experiences its first hard freeze, add in some fertilizer. Ammonium sulfate makes an excellent winter fertilizer. It adds nutritious nitrogen to your soil and also drops the pH balance. Over the course of the winter, this fertilizer will work slowly but constantly, getting your garden ready to thrive once spring comes. While any nitrogen-rich fertilizer will work in this role, you'll find ammonium sulfate (one of the milder fertilizers) is extremely cost-effective for cold-weather fertilizing.

You can add plenty of other stuff to your soil at this time. If you've finished the growing season with any excess compost, now is the perfect time to mix it into the soil. Old mulch is also great to work into the ground. These materials will perform in the same way as your fertilizer, rejuvenating the soil and laying the groundwork for outstanding plant growth next year. Plus, working this stuff into your soil is a much more efficient way to dispose of it than simply hauling it away.

Once you've invested all this work in preparing your soil for a long winter's nap, make sure you protect it from the oncoming cold weather! A heavy winter mulch is perfect for locking in moisture and helping your soil retain heat. A four-inch wood chip blanket makes an ideal winter ground cover, and it'll keep your garden in tip-top condition no matter how far the mercury drops. Once again, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the low price you'll pay for winter mulch; cheap, rough-cut wood chips are perfectly adequate for this task.

Finally, you may want to look into laying down a cover crop. This is a planting of some hardy species that can survive a winter. Many cover crops make attractive winter ground covers. More importantly, there's nothing better than a winter planting to keep soil erosion at bay. This can be vitally important if you live in a region that features lots of precipitation during the colder months. Consult your local nursery to find out which plant species are best suited for use as cover in your area.

Marshall your gardening energy and invest the necessary effort in wintertime preparations. You'll see the results right away when the weather gets warm again. You won't regret your hard work when your garden starts to thrive early in the spring planting season!

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