Garden winter tips – Winter is the time of year when most gardens in the Northern Hemisphere are put to rest. Start cleaning up your garden in late fall and you can look forward to a healthy garden next spring.
Although you can extend your harvest of greens by covering your veggies with row covers or garden fabrics, the inevitable will still happen – winter will arrive and settle in and plant growth will stop.
The following are tips for putting your vegetable garden to bed for winter…
- Remove all weeds and debris before the ground gets too hard. Get rid of overwintering places where insects and diseases might overwinter.
- Expose insects that plan to overwinter by tilling the soil gently. Doing this reduces your pest problems next spring. When most of the garden soil is exposed, add a layer of compost and manure (optional, add if you have it) and if you need it, add lime. Gently till these into the soil.
- Kill weeds by covering them with black plastic. Put rocks on the edges of the plastic to weigh it down and keep it in place. Leave it there over the winter and come spring, you’ll have a nice weed-free soil you can plant in.
- If you have turnips, carrots, garlic, radishes, horseradish, parsnips and leeks, leave them in the garden. You can harvest them in the early winter. Mulch heavily to keep the ground from freezing. Be sure to mark your crops with tall stakes so you can easily find them in the snow.
- Pull up your bean, pea, squash and tomato plants and put the stakes away. If the plants are disease-free, compost them. If they are diseased, discard them separately or burn them.
- Sow cover crops like winter rye to improve your soil. The roots of cover crops dig deep into the subsoil, drawing up nutrients from there and making them available to garden plants. Sowing cover crops for overwintering will prevent the soil from becoming compacted. Cover crops also smother and kill weeds.
- For chives, dig up a clump and transfer it to a pot. Let the foliage freeze and die down for several weeks before bringing the potted chives indoors. Place the pot in a sunny and cool place. If you water it well, you will be harvesting chives throughout the cold months.
- For sage, this herb is a perennial in most areas and requires no special treatment for the winter. Frost will stop its growth though and before that happens, cut a branch or two and let dry just in time to use in stuffing for Thanksgiving.
- Thyme is a perennial and fairly indestructible. It will just go dormant by itself in the fall and then revive in the spring.
- Rosemary requires different treatment depending on your zone. In Zone 6, this herb should be sheltered outside during the cold months and in Zone 5 and colder, it should be potted up and brought indoors.
- Parsley can withstand a light frost. If you are in Zone 5 or colder, parsley should be covered during cold nights. Transplanting it is not a very good option of the herb’s long taproot.
- If you have strawberries, cover the beds with straw or hay.
- Fall-bearing raspberries must be pruned ruthlessly. Move them to the ground after they have borne fruit. In the spring, new canes will come up.
- Prune summer-bearing raspberries in early to mid-fall but leave 6 of the strongest brown canes for every foot of your row.
- Plant blackberries in the fall. Mound up the soil around the canes in order to prevent hard frosts from heaving the blackberries out of the ground.
Other things to do to prepare your garden for the winter…
- Run your garden hose up over a railing to get rid of any remaining water before rolling it up and putting it away.
- Rake fall leaves onto a large tarp or sheet then drag it to your compost heap. Add to your compost in thin layers mixed with other materials like hay. Alternatively, you can rake the leaves into loose piles, run the mower over the piles and turn the leaves into mulch for your bulb or perennial beds.
- Empty the fuel tank on your power equipment including your lawn mower. Read the manual for other tips on winter maintenance.
- All outdoor containers must be emptied to prevent them from cracking during the cold months. Store these containers upside down.
- Cover your compost heap with tarp, plastic or thick hay before it starts to snow.
- Scrub your garden tools and put them away. Garden tools may be oiled with vegetable oil to prevent rusting. Hang your tools on pegs.
We hope these tips help you put your garden to rest for the winter. For other suggestions, feel free to post them on the comments section.