What to do in your garden this winter expert advice

Simple steps to keep your plot looking good this winter

Photo of a young woman taking care of her rooftop garden on the balcony over the city, on a beautiful autumn day

by Piper Huxley |
Updated on

During the summer, we were greeted by warm, inviting sunshine. Hopefully, you managed to grab some of that while it lasted. Maybe you got some lovely garden furniture or a swinging chair and spent hours sipping from botanical gins and reading your favourite book. Now - the winter is beginning to set in, and our gardens are going to change. And, not in the way we particularly like.

Don’t let the cold and frost deter you from being outside in the garden. There are still plenty of things you can do in the colder months to keep your outdoor sanctuary looking lovely. At Modern Gardens Magazine, we’ve enlisted the help of contributor Geoff Hodge to give you the best tips on what to do in your garden in winter.

Hopefully, we will inspire you to give your outdoor sanctuary a makeover, ensuring you have something attractive to look at to lift the spirits on dark winter days.

The best things to do with your garden in winter from Modern Gardens

Get planting!

Don’t despair if your beloved plants are starting to become dormant for winter. Sometimes, gaps will start appearing in beds and borders. Take this opportunity – and plant some new additions. According to Geoff, winter is “the best time to plant, as hardy plants will establish quickly.”

For example, Geoff suggests popping winter-flowering heather in a “pot of ericaceous compost with a layer of horticultural grit in the base, and it’ll be very happy!” This plant is a real treat. The sunniest spot in your winter garden is best for a heather plant and will result in more vibrant foliage colours.

Here’s what you need for this low-growing (and pretty) plant:

Heather Collection (6 Variations)
Price: £34.99 (was £41.94)


Look after your lawn, grasses and flowerbeds

Avoid walking on your lawn when it’s frosty or wet. Here, blades of grass are easily damaged. So, make sure to mow on a frost-free, dry day and put mower blades on a high setting. We’ve picked our favourite lawnmower – or you could check out our top picks.

Next, long grasses. They’re good to groom during the winter, although it is better to wait until spring. If you want to keep up appearances, removing damaged leaves isn’t a bad idea. In fact, Geoff adds, “Snip off any dead blades, gently pull them out or rake through with a hand fork.”

As for your flowerbeds, they’re likely going to be a little lacklustre now. Here, you need to divide and conquer. Dig the poor-flowering and overcrowded herbaceous plants up and replant the youngest sections says Geoff, “As this will revive them for next year.” Plus, this method is cost-effective.

If you’re wanting some herbaceous plants, we’ve listed some below:


Achillea millefolium 'Cerise Queen'1 of 5

Achillea millefolium 'Cerise Queen'

Aster novi-belgii 'Lady in Blue'2 of 5

Aster novi-belgii 'Lady in Blue'

Campanula poscharskyana3 of 5

Campanula poscharskyana

Crocosmia 'Lucifer'4 of 5

Crocosmia 'Lucifer'

Phlox paniculata 'Fragrant Collection'5 of 5

Phlox paniculata 'Fragrant Collection'

Care for your pots

Keeping your pots cosy is a priority for you this winter says Geoff. He explains that “roots of potted plants don’t have as much protection as those growing in the ground”, so – consequently – the cold can affect them a great deal. So, the suggestion is to move your patio pots to somewhere with little (or no) frost and “wrap your most precious plants in bubble wrap.” Sound advice, Geoff.

Similarly, wrapping fleece around your most tender plants to keep them safe from the cold wind. For this, knock several tree stakes into the ground surrounding the plant, then wrap the fleece around, securing with galvanised U-shaped staples. Keep this in place until spring.

Next, we have a quick 10-minute fix from Geoff. When winter arrives, your patio will very likely be exposed to the elements, namely rain and frost. These two, combined, are bad for your potted plants. So, Geoff suggests popping them “on bricks or pot feet” as frosty water can rot the roots of plants and crack terracotta. You want your plants happy and safe through the colder months.

The Garden Gecko, Invisible Pot Feet (Set of 20)

Rrp: $20.99

Price: $19.37

Create a little winter garden

Putting a little winter garden together on the patio will be sure to lift your spirits. Unfortunately, winter isn’t kind to flowers. No need to worry! There are plants that still give striking foliage, colourful stems and glowing berries. You’ll be more than pleased with a mini garden for winter.

Pack these plants tightly together in their containers as they won’t fill out as much as they would in the summer. Plus, you should place them somewhere with decent light and make sure they’re watered. Garden News writer Louise Curley has given her top picks of plants to add to your garden this winter, guaranteed to give a show in the coldest months.


Skimmia japonica 'Rubella'1 of 5

Skimmia japonica 'Rubella'

Sarcococca confusa2 of 5

Sarcococca confusa

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'3 of 5

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'

Pinus mugo 'Carsten's Wintergold' (Standard)4 of 5

Pinus mugo 'Carsten's Wintergold' (Standard)

Hellebore Niger Potted Plants5 of 5

Hellebore Niger Potted Plants

Thinking of some festive decoration? Why not add a glittery touch to bare pots? For this, cover compost with offcuts of pine snipped from your Christmas tree and thread natural treasures onto a wire to create pot garlands.

Doesn’t that sound lovely? To give it a proper festive feel, get some well-made planters and pop in nests of twigs and pinecones, topping with candles. Christmas will come early.

Charlotte Emerald Green, Glossy Glazed Well Made Ceramic Plant Pot
Price: £14.99+


Look after the birds this winter

If you haven’t got a bird bath or feeder already, we would suggest getting one for your garden.

We love this rustic, stone bird bath from Gardenesque:

To keep your little visitors warm this winter, put out plenty of fat balls, seeds and nuts. They will give the birds the necessary energy to keep warm. Plus, they need water – so, keep the bath topped up. If you’re pruning shrubs this winter, don’t be too thorough and tidy as these can be used as shelter.

Both of our contributors suggest popping a small fat ball in the water as it will stop it from freezing.

Want to go the extra mile? Put up some nesting boxes if you can.

Add some evergreens

It’s time for winter varieties to shine in your space. Make some new additions to your garden. For winter, you want evergreens that are small-leaved and slow-growing. Plus – they may be able to give you year-round privacy.

We suggest the slow-growing and easy-to-manage Star Jasmine for a winter addition to your outdoor space. It’ll provide year-round interest with its hardy green foliage, ability to climb pergolas, arches and walls. Plus, it treats you to fragrant, pure-white star-shaped flowers during the summer.

Consider some houseplants

If you don’t want to brave the cold, consider indoor houseplants. With winter heading our way, indoor houseplants will be filling the shops. Why not opt for something Christmas-y like azalea, cyclamen, poinsettia and Christmas cactus? Geoff suggests getting some houseplant sleeves to protect them. In the right place and conditions, your indoor houseplant will thrive.

If you’re serious about an indoor houseplant, check out our top picks in this round-up.

Tidy your shed

You may dread it, but if you’re stuck for garden jobs this winter, giving your shed a sort-out is a good idea:

• Recycle old pots at your local garden centre

• Invest in a magnetic knife rack to keep small tools in one spot

Mass Dynamic, Magnetic Knife Holder – 50cm
Price: $13.99

• Hang larger tools from wall hooks to free up floor space.

Protect your garden taps

Cold weather can bring about some nasty damage to your garden. But did you know that your trusty garden tap was susceptible to damage, also? Geoff suggests getting an outdoor tap cover. As well as this, he says to “drain hosepipes and store them in the shed.”

Tend to the veggie patch

We hope you had a good yield this year. By November at the latest, you need to have prepared your vegetable patch for the winter. Geoff says to collect all of the dead leaves and stems from the patch. Not only does this leave the plot looking somewhat tidy, but it will prevent pests and diseases.

He adds, “Leave the roots of old bean and pea plants in the soil, as they’ll add lots of goodness that’ll give you a good crop next year.” That’ll save you from getting the chicken manure out, at least!

Plus, Geoff recommends planting some garlic. It’s the prime time to get some autumnal garlic going.

Prepare your pond

Much like your veggie patch, yellowing leaves are no use for a pond. So, make sure to collect those for compost as this will help your pond through colder weather. If it has a water pump, Geoff recommends removing, cleaning and storing it until spring.

Reshuffle the layout

If you’re contemplating moving plants around, winter isn’t a bad time for it. Geoff recommends:

1. Waiting until all the leaves have dropped before you start the process.

2. The day before the move, water and soil around the plant and dig some soil conditioner into its new home. We recommend this organic blend from Levington.

3. Dig up as big a rootball as possible, replant it and water it thoroughly.

4. Keep the soil moist for the first year.

Brush off snow

There’s something so special about snow. However, if you don’t want to get snowed under with replanting jobs and tree care, you need to shake the snow off with a broom. Branches of shrubs, trees and perennials can sap and snap. When it melts, prune off any damaged stems.

What to read next:

Best plant subscription boxes

Garden candles for an ambient glow outdoors

Garden furniture covers to protect your tables and chairs

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