Winter weather near the Great Lakes can be pretty rough as well as variable. Some areas are in USDA zone 2 with a first frost date that may occur in August, while others are in zone 6. All of the Great Lakes region is a four-season zone, and all gardeners here must contend with winter. There are some commonalities throughout the region, including pre-winter and winter garden chores everyone should be doing.
Great Lakes Gardening – Prepping for Winter
Preparing for a harsh winter is a must for Great Lakes gardeners. While the winter months are much colder in Duluth than in Detroit, gardeners in both areas have to prep plants, beds, and lawns for cold and snow.
- Water plants throughout fall to ensure they don’t dry out during winter. This is especially important for transplants.
- Cover vegetable beds with a good layer of mulch.
- Cover the crowns of vulnerable shrubs or perennials with mulch.
- Unless there are signs of disease, leave some perennial plant material intact to provide roots with energy for the winter.
- Consider growing a cover crop in your vegetable beds. Winter wheat, buckwheat, and other covers add nutrients to the soil and prevent winter erosion.
- Inspect trees for signs of disease and trim as needed.
Gardening around the Great Lakes in Winter
Winter in the Great Lakes is a time of rest and planning for most gardeners, but there are still things to do:
- Bring in any plants that won’t survive the winter and care for them indoors as houseplants or let them overwinter in a cool, dry spot.
- Plan your garden for next year, make any changes, and create a calendar for tasks.
- Sow seeds, those that need cold to germinate earlier than others.
- Prune woody plants, except for those that bleed sap, like maples, or those that bloom on older wood including lilac, forsythia, and magnolia.
- Force bulbs indoors or bring in spring-flowering branches to force in late winter.
Ideas for Hardy Plants in the Great Lakes Region
Gardening around the Great Lakes is easier if you choose the right plants. Winter hardy plants in these colder zones will require less maintenance and care as well as have a better chance of surviving a bad winter. Try these in zones 4, 5, and 6:
- Apple, cherry, and pear trees
Try these in zones 2 and 3: