Green Thumb 101: Preparing Your Vegetable Garden for Winter
By Rae Steinbach
Just because you've harvested the last of your crops doesn't mean that your work out in the vegetable garden is done. With the season drawing to a close, you need to do some work to prepare your garden for winter.
By doing a little bit of work in the fall, you can protect your garden from some of the effects of the cold weather approaching and prepare your garden beds for a productive spring. Here are some tips for getting your garden ready for next year:
Clean Your Garden Beds
The first step is to clean your garden beds. Start by moving all of the old mulch aside. Pull up any remaining weeds and remove any dead plant material or rotten vegetables. Some pests and plant diseases can live through the winter in any vegetation that is left behind, so it's important to clean the beds and dispose of the weeds and other plant material properly.
Add Some Mulch
Once you've cleared out all of the weeds and unwanted vegetation, you can add a thin layer of the old mulch to the garden beds. You want to be careful not to overdo it with winter mulching. When the soil freezes, it can kill many of the pests and diseases that can impact your garden. If you overdo it with the mulch, it can prevent the soil from freezing, and this will increase the chance that pests or diseases could survive the winter.
Instead of adding new mulch right away, wait for the ground to freeze for the first time. With the ground frozen, you can now add some new mulch. When you apply this new layer of mulch later in the year, make sure to pay close attention to mulching around any perennial plants.
If you aren't saving your leaves, it's time to start. They're perfect for adding carbon to a compost heap. If you don't have a compost heap, you can turn them into leaf mulch to feed your gardens.
One way to mulch your leaves is to just run them over with a cordless lawn mower and then collect the shredded leaves in bags. If you want to make it easier, you could get a leaf blower that has a mulching function or you could buy an electric leaf mulcher.
Expand Your Gardens
If you're planning to garden more of your land next year, fall is the perfect time to build new garden beds or to expand the ones you have. If you care about aesthetic details, you may want to look into lightweight electric grass trimmers to help keep edges clean between pavement and lawn and lawn and garden bed. By getting the work done now, they'll be ready for you to plant with the rest of your beds next spring. Also, fall is often a good time to find discounts on things like soil and compost.
Test Your Soil
Autumn is a great time to test your soil. You'll obviously want to test the soil pH, but there are several other tests that may be valuable. Beyond pH, you could run tests for magnesium, sodium levels, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and sulfur. After running some tests, you'll know which types of amendments and fertilizers you may need to apply to your garden beds.
Now that you have your garden beds ready, you can spend the winter planning for next spring. Since you did some of the work this fall, your garden beds will be ready to have a strong growing season next year!