Tips On How To Winterize Your Garden
Most of the leaves have fallen and we’ve had frost a few mornings already. It’s time to get your garden ready for winter. Whatever you do now will save you time in the spring. Here are some chores that you should do before the snow falls.
- Cut all those dead flower stalks down. The only ones you might want to leave are the flowers that have dried seeds still attached to the flower heads. I always leave my cone flowers in the garden. The thistle like seeds are loved by yellow finches and other birds and it’s a joy to see their bright colors during grey winter days.
- Remove as many weeds from your planting areas as you can. You can use a rototiller to till them in. But you must cover the soil with mulch to prevent the weed seeds from sprouting. You’ll be so glad you did next spring.
- Pull up your old, dead vegetable plants and pick up any vegetables that have fallen on the ground. Clean any debris that may be lying around in the garden. Don’t give those veggie eating bugs a place to hide.
- Clean up all fallen fruit under fruit trees.
- After a hard freeze, place some mulch around your perennials to keep them from heaving out of the ground after a cycle of freezing and thawing.
- I like to mulch my vegetables with hay or straw. Straw is better because it doesn’t have as many seeds as hay. One of our local nurseries uses bales of straw to make their Halloween display. The week after Halloween they sell those bales for $1 apiece. I’m sure many garden stores and nurseries in your locale would be glad to sell those used bales for practically nothing. They might even give them away. It’s worth asking.
- Another way to mulch your vegetable garden is to plant a cover crop. A cover crop should be tilled under in the spring a few weeks before you are ready to plant. The material you till in will add beneficial nitrogen to the soil.
If you are lucky enough to have trees in your yard, you will have an abundant supply of leaves. You may think it’s a curse while you are raking them, but you have a major ingredient for making Black Gold! Black gold is how gardeners feel about compost.
- If you compost your leaves and grass clippings in the fall, you will be rewarded with all natural fertilizer and mulch for your garden and shrubs in the spring.
- If you don’t have leaves, find a friend who has plenty of them. I have a friend who has lots of leaves but doesn’t garden. She would have to haul the leaves to the dump, so every fall, I give her a box of garden trash bags and haul her leaves to my garden. It’s win-win for both of us.
- I have my bags all lined up behind my garden fence. It’s a good idea to poke a hole in the bottom of the bags to let earthworms get into the leaves and do their thing.
- I used part of my leaves to build two compost piles. Since you need both carbon and nitrogen materials, I got out my lawnmower and put the bagger attachment on it. I alternated layers of grass and leaves with a sprinkling of already finished compost on every other layer. I am letting the rain do its thing and by next spring I should have lots of compost, ready to go to fertilize my garden and mulch my trees.
- Be sure to save enough leaves to use for composting your kitchen scraps throughout the summer.
Row covers are rectangular strips of different weight material that protect your plants from frost and insects. They are usually 8 ft. long and 4 or 5 ft. wide. Put them over your tender plants that might be killed by the frost or later dips in temperature. They usually need to be placed over wire frames to hold them over the row of plants. I use them on my swiss chard and parsley. Hopefully, they will keep producing well into the winter.
- Be sure to detach your garden hoses from their faucets to prevent the water backing up into the pipes and freezing.
- Bring your hoses inside for the winter. They will last a lot longer that way.
- Take your outdoor pots and put them away inside. Water in the pot, freezing and thawing, could cause breakage.
- Make sure your garden tools are clean and dry.
These simple chores will help you get your garden ready for winter. Then you can relax, pull up a chair and start planning your garden for next year.