How to Prepare Your Vegetable Garden for Winter
Everything you need to know for preparing your vegetable garden and even your flower beds and other landscaping for winter and colder weather; 14 tips for winterizing your garden!
Its that time of year again! The bounty’s of summer are close to an end, you’re beginning to harvest your first crops of fall, and you’re starting to think about what you need to do to get ready for winter. There are a number of different steps you can take to prep your garden for winter so that its the best it can be come spring.
Fall and winter are some of the best times for developing your garden and your skills so that your plants and landscaping can have their most successful growing seasons come spring and summer. Appreciate the slower pace, but remember to do what you can so that you are not stressed out in a few months when spring is on the horizon and so that your plants and vegetables can thrive and do their absolute best next season.
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How to Prep Your Vegetable Garden for Winter
14 Tips for Getting Your Garden Prepped for Winter
Finish harvesting all of your fall crops
First off, its very important that you remember to continue to water your fall crops and even your winter crops and perennials during this time. Most fall varieties of plants will already have been planted by now and many you may even be enjoying their harvest. Some varieties of fall crops are at their peek just after the first frost including kale and collards. Root vegetables should be harvested and stored before the ground freezes. Consider canning, preserving, and storing as much as you are able.
Clear out any old and dead vegetation from the summer
Now is a great time to start clearing out the dead and old vegetation. Compost what you can and dispose of the rest. Any plants that have diseases or insects should not be composted. You can clear out anything that is not a perennial and that is no longer producing.
Get a head start on weeds
If you’ve had some areas that were overrun by weeds, you can pull and discard as many as possible, and then can cover the areas with plastic or cardboard to help prevent the weeds from coming back next spring. You’ll want to do this before the first frost when the ground is still soft to work the weeds out easily.
Give your perennials a good pruning
The best plants to give a good pruning include fruit trees, ornamental trees, roses, shrubs, grapevines, and a variety of herbs and vegetables. Be careful and research each of your perennials before pruning, as some do great with a cut back before winter, others need pruning in the spring, and some don’t need any at all.
Prep your herbs for winter
Cut off and begin drying any herbs that you can. Most popular herb varieties are hardy perennials and will withstand the elements of winter. Some will do better when brought inside. Adding winter herbs to the garden can also help with keeping pathogens away and with minimizing soil depletion, as herbs will usually pull different nutrients from the soil than your other vegetables.
Work on your compost
Even though you won’t be as active in your garden throughout the winter, you should continue to compost as often as you are able. Apply the compost that you created over the summer to the tops of garden beds, lawns, and other landscaping before winter. Then make more! Dried leaves are a great addition to your compost this time of year. Come spring you’ll have a fresh batch of healthy compost to till into your soil and boost it with nutrients.
Prep your soil for the upcoming spring
Now is a valuable time to get a soil test done. What nutrients is it missing and what can you do to amend it before next spring? Add your read-to-go compost, manure if you have it, and a layer of dried leaves, and gently till it into your soil. Then do what you can to get your soil to its highest quality with necessary amendments. The more you can do now to amend your soil, the less you will have to do in the spring.
Take any precautionary pest prevention steps if you had insects and disease
HERE is a great resource on pest prevention for any number of insects and diseases that can attack your garden. Giving your soil a good tilling before the winter season with help to uproot any insects that were planning on bedding down in the garden for the winter.
Sow cover crops
Cover crops are a great option for helping to improve your soil quality; they are often times referred to as ‘green manure’! In addition to helping with the soil quality, cover crops can help prevent weeds and protect against insects. They are also extremely easy to grow!
Some great cover crop options include rye, buckwheat, sorghum, and oats. Cover crops can be easily planted by using a rake to work up the soil, adding in the seeds, and then using a rake again to mix the seeds into the soil.
Adding mulch before the winter weather hits can help with protecting your soil from invasive weeds the following spring as well as soil erosion. If you have any fall or winter crops mulch will also help them to grow more efficiently and have a longer growing season, as it keeps the temperatures and water levels from fluctuating too much.
Sow spring bulbs
Spring bulbs that can be planted in the fall will include daffodils and tulips. Most bulbs will thrive in well-drained soil that has full sun exposure. Make sure to plant the bulbs deep and with the pointy side facing up. You can also add a little bit of your good, composted soil to them to give the bulbs an extra boost. Add mulch for weed prevention and give the bulbs a good watering right after planting.
Clean and organize your garden shed
Pre-winter is a great time to clean out your gardening shed and organize it before the cold season hits. Make sure to store away any tools that you won’t be needing, and have winter tools like shovels easily accessible. You can take everything out of your gardening shed, give it a good sweep or scrub, clean the tools like mentioned below, and put back in whatever you are planning to keep.
Maybe you’ve been wanting or needing some shelves for extra storage and organization. Now is a great time to get it done so that come springtime you can focus solely on the growing.
Clean and assess your gardening tools
Did any of your tools break or are damaged now that the full swing of summer gardening is over? If so make a list of gardening tools you may need to purchase before next season. This is a great time to purchase discounted gardening tools, as stores are liquidating and discounting their gardening inventory this time of year.
It may be time to invest in some new tools and equipment. Get everything you need and be as prepared as possible so that you’re not dealing with broken or missing equipment/tools when you’re in the full swing of gardening come spring.
Take the time to give all of your gardening tools a good cleaning before storing them away for the season in your gardening shed. You can also sharpen any tools that could use sharpening. Oil your metal tools like shovels and hoes with a simple machine oil this will help them to stay protected against the elements and it will extend their lifespan.
Assess your gardening journal and reflect on summer/plan for next spring
Keeping a gardening journal can be extremely helpful in allowing you to see progress with your garden every year. By jotting down what works and what doesn’t every season as well as any lessons you learned you’ll be able to look back on it the next season and make changes as necessary.
Some things you can jot down in your journal will include what varieties of plants did well and what didn’t. Were there any plants that produced too much for your family to handle or for your personal goals? What about too little? How was your weed control this year? Did the size, dimensions, and layout work well for your garden? Or could they be improved? This is also a great place to write down some of the things that you learned in your tool assessment, including what gardening tools and machinery should be purchased or repaired before next spring.
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Other things to consider
Preparing Raised Beds for Winter
Raised beds don’t necessitate that different of preparation for winter. One thing you can do is leave some of the roots in the soil (simply cutting away most of the dead plant that’s above the soil). The roots will decompose and add nutrients to the soil, and it will also help to aerate it. Add compost and mulch just like you would with a traditional garden.
Should I cover my garden in the winter?
Covering your garden in the winter can have a number of different benefits, but it is completely optional. Covering your garden is more desirable if you tend to have a weed issue. Using plastic or cardboard to cover the soil will help to prevent much weed growth when spring comes.
Preparing perennial plants, flowers, and general landscaping for winter
Don’t forget about all of your flowers and landscaping that may not necessarily produce food! Continue to water your perennials, flowers, and other landscaping including grass, bushes, fruit trees, etc. through the end of fall. This will give them a nice boost to help in getting them through the colder months. Cut and dead-head any perennials as necessary like mentioned before, and cut away dead branches from trees.
Add a layer of mulch around the roots of the plants to protect them from the dropping temps. You can also work in some compost to the soil around your perennials to give them some extra nutrients for the winter. Continue to mow your lawn until the grass has stopped growing.
A note on outdoor containers
If you have any outdoor containers this season that have housed flowers or even herbs and vegetables, you can empty them out and bring them inside or store them inside of you garden shed. This will help prevent any cracking or weather damage.
We hope this is helpful to you in your winter garden preparation. Do you do anything different to prepare your garden for winter, or perhaps anything more? Let us know in the comments below!
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