Winter isn’t typically a season when people consider their landscaping, especially when living in places where the snow and ice take over every year. While you may not feel like caring for your bushes and plants when they have become buried in snow, you can still prepare your landscape for its comeback after winter finally ends. We’ll give you a few examples of the best landscaping projects to prepare for winter so that you can keep your home looking great even in the worst of weather.

Protect or Move Sensitive Plants and Trees

Not all plants and trees can survive low temperatures and snow. If you have potted plants or flower boxes, it’s a good idea to move them out of the cold or at least under an awning so that the snow can’t get to them. You can plant trees in winter, but you’ll need to keep certain trees insulated and warm throughout the season to keep them alive.

Perform Trimming and Pruning

Whether due to powerful winds or heavy snowfall, winter can be a difficult time for various plants. Protecting your house’s landscaping should be a priority as a result. A good way to do this is to trim and prune any dead or broken branches from your large trees. These can fall and damage property when the weather gets worse.

Prepare Your Garden Beds for Spring

The best landscaping projects to prepare for winter will also get everything ready for the following spring. You want your garden beds to soak up as many nutrients as possible throughout the colder months so that they can bounce back quickly when the weather warms up. Remove weeds and add compost or manure a few inches thick to protect your garden beds.

Cut Your Grass to a Medium Length

If you cut your grass too short before winter, the cold can seep into its roots. In turn, some of it will die and leave behind ugly patches. However, leaving your grass too long can cause it to mat up underneath the snow and allow mold to grow. A good medium length of around four inches should keep your lawn safe throughout the winter.

Recycle Your Dead Leaves

Dead autumn leaves can pose a problem if you let them rot under the snow, but they’re also useful if you recycle them. You can mow over them or add them to your compost or mulch to inject some more organic matter into your soil.

Aerate the Lawn

If rainfall pools on the grass, it's time to aerate compressed soil so water and nutrients can reach the roots. A garden fork can do the job on a small yard, but for larger lawns Roger uses a walk-behind aerator that pulls out 2½-to 3-inch-deep soil plugs, which will break down naturally by spring.

Feed Your Grass

Cutting back on fertilizer in late summer prevents perennials from wasting energy on leaf production. "But grass roots keep growing until the ground gets down to around 40 degrees," says Roger, "so this is a good time to feed them." Apply a high-phosphorus (12-25-12) mix to lawns in fall to encourage roots, so turf greens up earlier in spring.

Mow a Final Time

Roger trims turf down to 1¼ inches for the last cut of the season. "Disease has a harder time with shorter grass," Roger says, "and fallen leaves blow across the lawn because they have nothing to latch on to." Don't go too low, though: Grass makes most of its food in the upper blade.

Collect Leaves

To make fallen leaves easier to transport, rake them onto a plastic tarp. Roger adds them (along with leaves he's cleared from the gutters) to a compost bin—a simple chicken-wire pen will do. Flip the leaf pile every week with a garden fork to aerate; the "black gold" that results next year can nourish lawns, flower beds, and shrub borders.

Plant New Shrubs

In many parts of the country, planting shrubs in early fall gives the plants a head start at establishing roots in the season's cool, moist soil. The basics: Dig a hole (twice the diameter and to a depth of 2 inches less than the full height of the root ball); position the shrub in the hole (make sure the top of the root ball remains at, not below, ground level); fill in with soil; water to settle soil; add more soil to top of root ball (don't pack soil down with foot); mulch.

Trim Dead Limbs

Lifeless branches can succumb to winter snow and winds, endangering you and your home. "For big jobs, call in the pros," says Roger. But you can protect small ornamental trees from further damage by cutting cracked, loose, and diseased limbs close to (but not flush with) the trunk; leave the wounds exposed to heal.

Cut Back Perennials

A little work now results in healthier spring beds: Evict tired annuals, as well as the snails and slugs that feed on them, which breed in fall. Trim spent perennial foliage down to the ground; this sends energy to the roots, for next season. Every three years, divide crowded tuberous plants, like irises and daylilies: More space means more flowers.

Mulch Young Plants

Give new beds a layer of mulch—chopped leaves, weed-free straw, or wood chips—after a light frost, but before the ground freezes. Till decomposed layers of organic mulch into the soil, then apply a fresh 2- to 4-inch layer (more will smother roots) to keep new plantings warm and to control water runoff and soil erosion.

Dry Out Drip Systems

Standing water can freeze and crack drip-irrigation tubing. For simple systems, Roger shuts the water off, unscrews the tap-joint adapter, and, using a high-volume, low-pressure setting on his compressor, inserts an air hose where the system normally attaches to the tap. "Blowing the water out avoids having to uproot the entire system."

Garden Media’s 2021 Garden Trends Report concludes that 16 million Americans took up gardening and many more are spending up to two hours more per day during the pandemic. As a result, architects and builders need to know what homeowners want from their backyards to foster these trends.

Gardening wasn’t the only thing that increased over the last year. Outdoor living trends also accelerated dramatically as homeowners opted to bring the outdoors in and the indoors out with patio and deck renovations, outdoor kitchens, expansive windows, and even gardening.

The growth of interest in outdoor living spaces is nothing new, but social distancing guidelines have forced more Americans to use their backyards for exercise, small gatherings, and a source for relaxation. In the fourth quarter of 2019, Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens found 63.7% of designers surveyed confirmed a growing interest in outdoor living spaces. For the 2021 report, 82% of American homeowners say they are more interested in updating their outdoor living spaces now than before the pandemic.

Biophilia, or the human tendency to interact or be amongst nature, continues to be a design trend increasing since the onset of the pandemic as well. The National Kitchen and Bath Association’s 2021 Design Trends report, which gathers insight from hundreds of residential professionals, identified natural and organic design as one of the top design styles for the next three years.

In addition, the “urban exodus” and shift toward the suburbs are providing more Americans with an abundance of outdoor space. Instead of visiting crowded parks in a city, more Americans have private outdoor spaces that they can design and cater to their desires.

For millions of Americans that means catering their outdoors to gardening and outdoor entertaining. Here are trends for residential construction professionals to know.

Reducing the Lawn

In order to accommodate an outdoor entertainment area and gardening spaces, more homeowners are shrinking the sizes of their lawns, according to Garden Media.

A recent National Garden Bureau survey found 67% of respondents aged 35 and under still desire just “some” green lawn but want a variety of plants encompassing the remainder of the lawn.

In 2019, 23.1 million or 9% of American adults converted part of their lawn to natural/wildflower landscape, according to the 2020 National Gardening Survey.

Other areas of the backyard are being taken over by seating areas, kitchens, and pools.

A Focus on Environmentally Friendly Gardening Practices

Not only are Americans gardening more, they are becoming increasingly aware of how gardens can benefit local wildlife.

Research commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation found more Americans are changing the way they garden to benefit wildlife and the planet as a whole.

“The new National Gardening Survey shows people across America are purposefully planting for wildlife, making a conservation difference where they live and advancing the wildlife gardening movement,” said Mary Phillips, senior director of Garden for Wildlife.

During the last three years, 64.1 million American adults purchased a plant because it would benefit birds, bees, or butterflies.

In addition to pollinator gardens, homeowners are opting for native plants, along with water conservation and even organic lawn care, says the National Association of Landscape Professionals.

Garden Media suggests garden design has begun to lean toward designs that connect more with nature.