“Wintering” Your Garden - putting your garden to bed for the winter
I am blessed by living in a part of the world where we can grow an edible garden all year long, but I know that there are many of you who live within well defined seasons and where growing edibles during part of fall, winter and even early spring is not an option.
By doing as much as possible to 'winterize' your garden in the fall, it will make it that much easier to plant your new spring garden the next year. The results will be outstanding!
By following a few simple ideas, you can spend winter dreaming as you look through seed and plant catalogs and have the garden ready to plant at the first sign of spring.
At the end of your growing season, dig up, chop and clear all weeds, vines and plants; gather leftover unharvested fruits or veggies that got too big or rotted or fell on the ground, any other garden debris and yes, even dead flowers and pile it all in the compost or mulching pile. It will begin decomposing during winter and provide you with nutrients for the next garden.
Photo: the end of the season’s tomatoes. Cages will be taken up and stored under our house until we redo our tomato beds. The brownish-beige spot you see on the middle right is our mulch pile, where we dump all of our fallen leaves, dead branches and spoiled fruit and veggies. Sort of a compost pile and mulch ‘in the works’ at the same time.
Remove all of the props you've used to support your plants and vines; trellises, tomato cages, wire frames, garden stakes and anything else you see laying on the ground. You might even find a tool you thought lost! Clean it all and make sure it is in good condition before storing to reuse in your next garden.
Whether you plant in rows in the soil or in planter boxes, make sure to work up the soil by tilling or by hand with a spade or hoe and add nutrients at this time, such as lots of compost or even all of the fall leaves you rake from the yard. This will discourage weeds from popping up.
I have never understood people that rake or use a leaf blower to get rid of leaves in their yard. It's like throwing away compost...Leaves are plentiful and free organic material for the taking! If you see a neighbor getting rid of their leaves, ask them for them. You can never have too much. Scatter leaves at least 4 or 5 inches deep on your planting beds and let them just decompose or mix them all into the soil and let nature work its magic.
Photo: All tools being gathered are placed on this ‘makeshift’ hanging rack tacked to the foundation underneath the house. We will clean them and oil them all before using them again. There is a small door built on the wooden slats covering under the house that gives access to storage for the bulkier items.
If winters are not too harsh in your area, planting a cover crop will protect and enrich the soil during the winter months and will also help by crowding out and discouraging weeds from coming up. Cover crops suitable for your garden depend on where you live but clover and peas are good nitrogen fixers and can be chopped and tilled into the ground, adding yet more nutrients, in the early spring.
Photo: All pots will be emptied and washed. The soil from the used pots was dumped in the compost pile. To store from season to season, they will be stored upside down to discourage critters from making nests in them. Pots that are cracked or broken will be saved to use the pieces in the bottom of other pots to help with drainage.
At the first sign of spring, it will be so much easier to either till the rows of decomposing leaves and nutrients into the soil or spade them all in your planting boxes and start planting as soon as all signs of frost are past.
Bringing out all the clean props you stored last fall will be another time saver as all you will need to do is just place them where you need them. A little bit of work at the end of your growing year will ensure an easier and more productive garden on your next growing season!