How to prepare raised beds for winter – from planting cover crops to repurposing your autumn leaves

Keen to learn how to prepare raised beds for winter? Here's what the gardening experts have to say

Chickens in the garden walking around a round raised flower bed in a garden
(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes Photography)

If you're trying to suss out how to prepare raised beds for winter, you've come to the right place – especially as it's the perfect time to get to work on adding more growing space to your garden.

Whether you decide to build a raised garden bed or buy one ready-made, these clever little structures are the perfect place to grow all manner of goodies, whether it be your own flowers, specimen shrubs, or fruit and vegetables.

You can also use your raised beds to grow edimentals – or even small trees! But, before you get too carried away, it's important to put the work in over winter so you can reap the rewards in the new year...

How to prepare raised beds for winter 

When it comes to figuring out how to prepare raised beds for winter, it's well worth heeding the advice of award-winning garden designer Zoe Claymore.

Zoe Claymore - headshot
Zoe Claymore

Zoe Claymore is a multi award-winning garden designer based in London. She focuses on creating outdoor places with emotional connection and ecological integrity for her private and commercial clients.

'Winter is now a fantastic time to reflect and plan your planting for next year. Besides draining the hose and putting away all frost tender items I'm also thinking about my raised beds,' says Zoe.

The garden designer, who recently launched her own range of pre-made raised beds based on the ones she created for her gold medal-winning garden at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival, says raised beds are perfect for people looking to add some magic to their small garden ideas.

A tabby cat standing near raised beds in an autumn vegetable garden

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes Photography)

'If you have a small space or they are near your house, why not treat your raised beds like big pots?' says Zoe.

'Fill them with a fantastic winter flower display, mixing in hidden spring bulbs for months of colour. Or plant them up now with a perennial mix of plants for year-round interest in your space. And don't forget the allure of an annual crop of fruit and veg!'

Whatever you decide to do with your raised beds, it's important to take the time to prepare them – and the best and most convenient time to do this is (you guessed it!) over the winter months. Here's what you need to do.

1. Clear debris

It's important to 'remove any dead plants, weeds or debris from your raised beds to prevent diseases and pests from taking hold,' says Christopher O'Donoghue, one of the co-founders of Gardens Revived.

Christopher O'Donoghue, one of the directors of Gardens Revived
Christopher O'Donoghue

A gardener with over a decade of experience under his belt, Christopher set up Gardens Revived with his brother, Andrew, in 2018  to create a thriving family business. Together, they have worked on residential gardens, listed buildings and gardens, flower shows and large estates with some exceeding 70 acres – many with historical significance.

Pay special attention to any spent vegetables or fruiting plants, such as tomatoes. And make sure all of the weeds are removed, so that nothing can germinate over the winter.

2. Amend the soil

'Spread a layer of compost over the surface of your raised beds,' says Christopher, 'as this enriches the soil and helps pack it full of nutrients ahead of the next growing season.'

It's also an excellent idea to get to work on a little mulching, such as straw, chopped autumn leaves, or well-rotted compost, to insulate the soil and protect it from extreme winter climes.

3. Consider a cover crop

Cover crops – also known as green manure – can help keep those weeds away, while also adding organic matter to the soil. 

'Consider planting something like winter rye from Amazon or white clover green manure from Crocus to protect the soil, reduce erosion, and add organic matter when it's turned under in the spring,' says Christopher.

4. Protect vulnerable plants

When it comes to sussing out how to prepare raised beds for winter, pay attention to those perennial plants that may be vulnerable to frost.

'Make sure you take the time to cover them with a layer of straw or horticultural fleece from Amazon,' says Christopher.

5. Check drainage

Winter is often a time for heavy rainfall, so make sure that your raised beds have proper drainage to prevent any waterlogging. You can try adding bark, sand, or perlite to increase soil aeration and promote drainage.

6. Consider a cloche or cold frame

If you're hoping to prepare raised beds for winter crops (there are plenty of fruit and vegetables that can still be planted over the colder months!), then you might want to consider a cloche or cold frame as this is one of the best ways to use a cold frame in the garden.

'They're an easy way to provide additional protection from the chilly climes,' says Christopher.


What can I do with empty raised beds in the winter?

One of the best and easiest things to do with empty raised beds in the winter is this: improve the soil.

If you're planning on using your raised beds for growing annual fruit and veg, Zoe suggests that you use Monty Don's autumn leaves hack to help them thrive.

'Use autumn leaves as mulch to keep the soil warmer and keep your veg or herbs growing by covering your crops in horticultural fleece,' she suggests.

'Or, if you've grown your summer bounty and decided to give the soil a rest over the months, the best thing I've found is to cover the top with few inches of well-rotted farmyard manure. This not only protects the soil from winter erosion but adds nutrition back in and lets the worms churn the soil for you, so things are ready to get going in the spring.'

To help you make the most of next year, you can also use this time to help plan what you will be planting in your raised beds for next year. 

How do you make a cold frame for a raised garden bed?

If you're hoping to extend the growing season on your raised beds, Christopher advises that you use a cloche or cold frame – and you can do the latter yourself from scratch by building a frame from PVC and covering it with poly sheeting. 

This way, you can customise it to fit your raised bed perfectly, using clamps to keep it secured and firmly in place.

How do you prepare a no-dig garden for winter?

If you are part of the no-dig movement (and if you're not, you really should be), then it's a good idea to make sure your raised beds are well prepped for winter.

Harvest your late crops, remove any spent or dead plants, mulch your tender perennials (our guide to overwintering should help with this), and be sure to weed, weed, weed!

It's also a good idea to amend your soil with compost, and don't forget to remove any stakes, tags, or supports.

Basically, store away anything that’s not attached to your raised bed until winter is over!

Now that you know how to prepare raised beds for winter, we recommend you get to work and fast – especially as snow has been forecast for this week!

The clock is a-ticking, people...

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.