How to Prepare Your Garden for Winter
With winter right around the corner, many gardeners are looking to start preparing their gardens for the winter. If you are new to gardening this year, you may be feeling lost on what you should be doing to prepare your garden for winter.
The good news is that there are several great things you can do to make the most of your garden this winter.
Clearing Out Your Garden for Winter
After your garden has died back for the year you can start to clear out your garden for the winter and get it ready so you can easily start planting in the spring.
Till the Remaining Parts of the Plants into Garden Beds
One of the best things you can do after you harvest your garden at the end of the season is to till the remaining parts of the plants directly into your garden beds. This will add organic matter that helps to nourish the soil and make it better to hold water.
Plant Cover Crops
If you have plenty of time after your last harvest to grow something else before it gets cold enough to kill everything off you can plant a cover crop.
Even if that crop doesn’t have time to mature for harvesting it can be a great way to improve your soil for later.
Remove Branches and Other Waste
Remove branches, wood piles, and other waste near your garden. This will keep you from unintentionally harboring rats and other pests in your garden over the winter.
If you are raking leaves, you can rake them directly into your garden beds and till them into the soil or rake them into large black garbage bags and set to the side to decompose over the winter before tossing them into your garden beds.
Prune Plants as Needed
Take the time now to prune away diseased branches and dying plant matter. This is a great way to give your plants time to recover from pruning before the cold of winter comes. It also helps to prevent the disease from spreading through the plants while you wait for spring.
Harvest and Restart Your Compost
Over the winter it will be too cold for your compost to properly break down unless you have a rather large pile.
The best thing you can do as you prepare for winter is to harvest what you can use from your compost to amend your soil. Or fill a new garden bed for next year and then start fresh so your compost is full and ready to break down when the spring weather warms it back up.
Extending Your Cold Weather Gardening Season
If you have planted a fall or winter garden growing things that are cold tolerant you can easily extend this growing season by planning ahead and working now to prepare your garden for the winter.
Adding plenty of mulch to your garden beds can make it easier for cold-tolerant plants to handle the deep freezes that winter brings. And this will help to extend your growing season by a few days to even a few extra weeks depending on the plant.
Cold frames or covered hops are a great way to extend your growing season well into the cold of winter. These protect the tender leaves of your plants from harsh frosts and can help keep your plants warmer to help them produce better.
These coverings for your garden can help to magnify light and trap in solar heat similar to the way a greenhouse works but on a much smaller scale, making it a great option for those just starting out.
Plant Things that Need the Cold to Thrive
In the fall while you are preparing your garden for the winter you can take the time to plant winter crops that can thrive and provide you with food well past the first frost as well as plant things that need the winter to truly reach their full potential.
This is the time to plant shrubs, bulbs like tulips and leeks, and most importantly to start your garlic so it has all winter to encourage growth.
Preparing Perennials for the Winter
Perennials are plants that keep growing year after year instead of needing to be replanted. These plants tend to do well over the winter depending on your growing zone.
Some perennials can thrive over the winter even in the harshest of areas while others will need a bit of help to get through the winter or need to be completely replanted depending on the growing zone. Preparing your plants for the winter can help them survive and take off come spring.
Mulching your perennials is one of the best things you can do to help them handle the cold winter.
Add a nice thick layer of mulch or even a few layers of different mulching materials like adding cardboard and grass clippings under your more decorative mulches. This is a smart way to keep the roots from completely freezing over, preventing damage so they can start back up right away.
Place a protective mesh or plastic cover over the base of small trees that are susceptible to rodents digging within the bark and trunk of your trees. This will help to keep them from damaging your young trees over the winter so they can better establish themselves and handle pests better in the years to come.
Moving Plants in for the Winter
If you are growing tropical plants that cannot handle a hard frost or a deep freeze, you will need to bring these perennials inside for the winter. Many people pull up tropical bulbs when they live in northern areas to help ensure that these plants do not die off in the winter cold.
Many potted plants can be moved inside where they can better handle the long cold winter as pots do not offer the same level of protection from the elements as planting directly in the ground does.
For these plants, simply moving them to a cool space like your basement can help keep them ready to grow again come spring. Some plants can be left in the main areas of your home and continue to grow over the winter in a sunny window or with the help of grow lights.
Final Thoughts on Preparing Your Garden for Winter
There are several things you can do to prepare your garden for the winter. And not only does doing these simple things help to protect your garden from the harsh winter weather, but it can also help extend your winter gardening season. It can even help put your garden in a better shape for the next spring gardening season.