Gardening Prep during the Cold Winter Months

The winter temperatures in northeastern Pennsylvania don’t really feel like gardening weather.
Gardening Prep during the Cold Winter Months - Articles


The days are shorter, the wind is cold and plants are dormant. But this is one of the best times to start planning for Spring! We should be preparing for another successful season of gardening in winter.

Here are some tips to consider:

  • Start by cleaning and sharpening your garden tools so they are ready for spring. Make sure to store your tools indoors to avoid them rusting. Drain garden hoses and store them away to avoid freeze damage. Sharpen hand pruners, loppers, and saws and make sure to oil moving parts.
  • Make a note of tools and supplies you will need for the next growing season and get a head start on purchasing them while there are holiday discounts.
  • Prepare to prune trees and shrubs during their dormant winter season. Cutting into live tissue during the winter will help prevent the spread of diseases such as fire blight, which is a bacterium that can be spread on pruning tools in warm wet weather. Removing dead branches in the winter will allow for good wound closure when spring arrives. Make sure you know how to properly prune. Remember, once you cut it off, you can't glue it back on. Pruning information can be found in the Penn State Extension Publication Pruning Ornamental Plants .
  • Scout the landscape for signs of insects and diseases. Look for egg masses of gypsy moth and eastern tent caterpillar on trees and shrubs. Scout for 1 to 2-inch spindle-shaped silken bags, camouflaged with bits of leaves, bark, and debris that hang from the branches like little pinecones. They are caused by bagworms and there can be hundreds on one arborvitae shrub.
  • Plan your vegetable garden for the coming year, keeping in mind the need to rotate crops. Keep a record of your garden plans for each year to see what is growing well and what struggled. Also keep track of varieties of plants you are growing.
  • Read seed catalogues to familiarize yourself with new plant varieties and determine which will work for your climate, and site conditions.
  • Learn more about gardening by attending Extension sponsored workshops or webinars. Yes, you can learn lots sitting at home this winter watching lectures that broadcast live over the internet (webinars) or previously recorded lectures that are archived on the Penn State Extension website.