Many think that nature and gardening are at a standstill in winter. This is a mistake. Especially in the cold season, the garden is particularly in need of protection. Below, we will take a look at some common mistakes that are made by people when caring for their gardens during the winter months.

Too Much Snow on Plants in Winter
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10 Common Mistakes When Caring for Your Garden in Winter

You should never make these mistakes in the garden in winter.

Mistake 1: Not Protecting Vulnerable Trees

The risk of frost damage to trees is particularly high when the sun is shining in sub-zero temperatures. When the sun-facing side of the trunk heats up, the bark there expands. The side facing away from the sun, on the other hand, remains frozen. The resulting tension causes the bark to tear, and the remaining wounds are then often a gateway for bacteria, fungi and pests. Young fruit trees such as olives, and ornamental trees that have not yet formed bark are particularly at risk. We recommend wrapping your trees in horticultural fleece (amazon link – opens in a new tab) to ensure that they are insulated and frost-free.

Note: The root area of the trees should also be protected. Leaf mulch is perfect for this.

Tree Wrapped for the Winter
Tree Wrapped for the Winter

Mistake 2: Not Watering Evergreen Plants

The evergreens also need water in winter. When the sun shines, water evaporates through the leaves. But if the ground is frozen at the same time, the roots cannot provide new supplies. The water is stuck in the ground as ice. It should therefore be watered as soon as the ground has thawed a little.

Mistake 3: Allowing Plants to “Sweat” Under Frost Protection

Many plants in the garden are well wrapped up over the winter. But that can become a problem towards the end of winter when the air heats up on sunny days, and there can still be frost at night. If the temperatures rise in early spring, plants should be unpacked for a few days. However, the material should remain within reach should the frost return.

Mistake 4: Withdrawing Light from Potted Plants

Exotic pot plants do not tolerate frost and are therefore overwintered indoors, for example in the basement. The problem: evergreen species also bear their leaves in winter. These include, for example:

  • Oleander
  • Laurel
  • Date palm
  • Different types of citrus

These specimens must not be too dark during hibernation. Behind a pane of glass in a conservatory or greenhouse, however, the light is usually less intense than outdoors.

Watering Evergreen Tree
Watering Evergreen Tree

Mistake 5: Stepping on the Lawn When There Is Snow

If there is a lot of snow, the rule is: Do not walk on the lawn. “The snow thickens when you walk or drive on it – this leads to an air seal,” explains Klaus Müller-Beck, Chairman of the Lawn Society. And this can lead to the development of typhula blight.

Mistake 6: Salting Too Generously

What you also have to consider when it comes to snow and ice is: that road salt is poison for the garden. The grit damages hedges, trees, and beds if it gets into the ground together with the meltwater. Hedges, shrubs and bushes near any roads that come into contact with road salt require special care to prevent them from dying.

Mistake 7: Leaving Too Much Snow Lying on Your Plants

If it snows heavily, you have to keep an eye on trees and hedges. If the snow load is too great, branches can break off. It must be cleared when the snow cover is more than ten centimetres thick or when you notice that the branches are already bending. Poorly trimmed plants in particular are affected as they do not form any strong enough branches to cope with the additional weight.

Snow on Plants
Snow on Plants

Mistake 8: Storing Lawnmowers Incorrectly Over the Winter

If there is fuel left in the tank of the petrol lawnmower over the winter months, the petrol can gum up over time, particularly if you operate your garden tools with E10. Gummy fuel will contaminate the fuel lines and carburettor, which could damage them. Also, rust film can easily form in an empty tank. Our tip for storing lawnmowers and other petrol-powered equipment over the winter: Fill the fuel tank to the top with fresh petrol and then turn off the petrol tap.

Now start the device and let it run until the engine stops due to lack of fuel. This way, the carburettor and lines are emptied so that they are not contaminated by gummy petrol during the winter break.

Mistake 9: Letting Garden Ponds Freeze Over Completely

At least parts of the garden pond must remain frost-free. This is the only way that fermentation gases can escape. These form at the bottom of the pond when plant residues decompose. Since the fish are also in the lower water zones in winter, they are in danger of poisoning themselves. That is why it is important to remove dead plants and leaves from the pond as early as autumn.

A tennis ball or a larger piece of wood that floats on the water is suitable for keeping a hole free.

Mistake 10: Not Insulating Water Pipes

Not only trees but flowers and shrubs also need to be protected from the cold. It is at least as important to turn off all water pipes that lead to the outside. Otherwise, the line could burst in severe frost. The water must also be drained from rain barrels and, if necessary, fountains in order to avoid frost damage.

Insulation Foam for Garden Hose
Insulation Foam for Garden Hose


Winter garden care can be tricky, but if you avoid these 10 common mistakes, your plants will stay healthy and happy. Have you made any of these mistakes in the past? Make sure to keep an eye on your plants and adjust their care as needed – and most importantly, enjoy watching them grow!

10 Common Garden Mistakes in Winter Infographic

Garden Doctor Tips

“Make sure to wrap or protect vulnerable trees that are unlikely to survive a harsh winter!”

“Use grit or sand on your walkways – try and avoid using any salts as this could leave long-lasting damage to your plants!”

“Leave a tennis ball or a few ping pong balls floating on top of your pond to prevent it from fully freezing over!”

“The first frost in the UK is usually around the end of October to the beginning of November – make sure to insulate your pipes before then!”

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you leave your garden over the winter?

Many people do shut down their gardens in winter, but it is important to take precautions. One of the things you can do is wrap your tender plants in plastic or bring them inside your house or garage to keep them from freezing. Another thing you can do is mulch your garden heavily before the cold weather sets in. This will help protect the soil from freezing and will also help keep moisture in the ground. If you have fruit trees, make sure to cover them with a blanket or some other type of insulation to protect them from the cold weather. And finally, don’t forget to bring in any tools or other equipment that you might need during the winter months.

Will snow damage my plants?

A light dusting of snow should be fine. However, if there is a heavy layer of snow, it is best to brush it off your plants, so they don’t get smothered.

The weight of the snow can also break branches or cause other damage. So, if you have a particularly heavy snowfall, be sure to check on your plants periodically and take steps to protect them if necessary.

What should I be doing in my garden in winter?

There’s still plenty to do in the garden in winter! Here are a few things you can do:

  1. Mulch your plants. Mulching helps to protect plants from cold weather and also helps to conserve moisture.
  2. Prune your plants. Winter is a good time to prune shrubs and trees since they are dormant and less likely to suffer from any injuries.
  3. Weed your garden. Weeds can quickly take over in winter, so it’s important to stay on top of them.
  4. Planting bulbs. Bulbs can be planted in the ground or in pots and will bloom in the springtime.


Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.

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