How to prepare your garden for winter: 5 tips from Brian Minter

Don't ignore your garden in winter, says Brian Minter. Bring those geraniums inside, cover up and insulate — and don't forget to water.

Bring those geraniums inside, cover up and insulate — and don't forget to water

Master gardener Brian Minter recommends bringing tender plants indoors for the winter season, and waiting until spring before repotting. (Getty Images)

Winter is on its way — parts of the province have experienced frost or snowfall over the past few weeks.

It's now especially important not to ignore one's garden, master gardener Brian Minter told B.C. Almanac guest host Michelle Eliot.

Here are Minter's winter gardening tips:

1. Bring tender plants inside now

"No more dilly dallying around, if you value some of your more tender plants, now is certainly the time to bring them in," Minter said.

"Stop bragging about those darn geraniums and get them inside ... That has to happen, right now."

2. Mulch

For tender plants, Minter recommends covering their roots with a fir or hemlock bark mulch.

"It's a wonderful insulator. So anything that's a little tender, getting that around the roots ... makes a difference between life and death. And the nice thing is that come late winter/spring, you can work that back into your soils," he said.

"The tops can freeze off, but if there's mulch protecting the bottom part of the plant and the roots, that's okay, it can make it then." 

3. Wrap up your plants

Minter said plants such as the hardy banana tree and windmill palm should be wrapped up.

For the hardy banana: "Simply cut the leaves off at this point, but protect the crown. That's very very important. I would like to see you wrap it with [bubble wrap] if you possibly can, leave a little bit of air in there, and then put a proper product around that's an insulator, like N-Sulate."

He said ideally a person would make a tripod of three stakes around the stem, and then add the bubble wrap and insulating material.

For the windmill palm: "When it does get severely cold — beyond minus 6, 7, 8, 9 — wrap them, again gather them up a wee bit [using] a bit of plastic to prevent water from getting in the crown and freezing, and a bit of N-Sulate."

4. Water your plants

"You need to go and saturate and rehydrate so many of your plants, because we'll be talking in spring … and people will go, 'Well my camellia buds are dropping off!' That happens because you're not getting enough moisture to them."

Minter recommends paying special attention to plants under eaves, and those that are on the west or south side of one's house.

5. Don't repot until spring

"We're going through winter, and I would not do any repotting. That goes for indoor plants as well. They're struggling a bit with the low light and all the conditions inside," Minter said.

"Wait until we get out of February. In March the plants show signs of life, their roots will come along a lot better and that's the time to do that." 

"And remember, when you're planting trees in containers, use a very open porous soil with lots of very fine bark mixed in. Use a nursery mix, otherwise regular potting soils hold too much moisture and they get in trouble when it stays wet."

To hear the full interview with Brian Minter, listen to the audio labelled: Master gardener Brian Minter shares 5 tips for winter gardening

With files from Gavin Fisher