Prepping Your Garden for Winter
Once you’ve harvested veggies or your flowers have finished blooming, it’s tempting to enjoy the fruits of your labor and be done with gardening for the year. But, there are a few things you can do between harvest and the onset of winter temperatures to prepare your garden for next year, saving yourself some trouble in the spring.
Remove Dead Plants and Weeds
The most important thing you can do is remove dead plant material from your garden beds, as well as from plants themselves. In vegetable gardens, remove all extraneous plant life from the soil so you can get it ready for a new season in the spring.
In flower beds, remove annuals or plants that have died. Weed the beds, especially around your perennials and prune perennial plants a final time if they need it.
Ready Your Soil
After a long season, soil can be lacking the nutrients needed for your plants. If you have a summer compost pile, now is the time to add it to your bed. Or, you can purchase commercially available “compost” or other soil amendments to add.
Turn the first couple inches of your soil with a hard rake, add compost or other amendments, and then turn the top of the soil over again. This introduces new air and nutrients that will enrich the soil over winter and be ready for your plants in the spring.
Lastly, if you don’t plan on using mulch over winter, cover the soil with a tarp or other covering to prevent winter rain and snow from washing out newly added amendments until spring.
For flower beds, and even vegetable gardens, a fresh 2-3 inches of mulch is great for helping keep the soil insulated from fluctuating temperatures over the winter. This helps protect the roots of your perennials. As it breaks down in the transition from winter to spring it also adds organic material to your soil as well.
Prepare Your Tools
Throughout the season it’s good to keep your tools clean, but with so much work there is little time for much maintenance otherwise. Now is a great time to clean your tools thoroughly and sharpen them.
Remove light rust with sandpaper or a wire brush. For tools that really need a sharp edge (like pruners and clippers), sharpen them with a file or whetstone. Lastly, wipe the surface with an old rag and machine oil to protect them from rusting.
Plan Next Year’s Plantings
After everything is taken care of outdoors, winter is a great time to think about what plants and vegetables did well and which didn’t. Remember that weather can impact your garden, but also sun exposure, soil acidity, and a number of other factors.