Growing season is winding down. Perhaps you are harvesting the last few tomatoes from your tomato plant. Or maybe you are pulling out the few remaining carrots from your raised garden bed.
Regardless of what fruits and vegetables still remain in your backyard garden, cooler temperatures are on the horizon and will soon bring an end to the growing season. Having said that, there are some steps every gardener should take to prepare their gardens for the upcoming winter months.
Why prepare your garden for the Winter?
So why bother tending to your garden when it will be inactive and won’t be harboring any plants for the next three to four months? Well think of your garden like your car. You wouldn’t repair and refuel your car when it is active and running. You repair it when it is inactive and not burning any gasoline. Much like cars, gardens are best to mend and maintain when they are inactive.
Preparing your garden in the waning months of the current growing season also better prepares it for next year’s growing season. Therefore, the transition from fall into winter is the perfect time to begin optimizing your garden for next year’s planting. With that being said, here are four ways you can prepare your garden for the upcoming winter months.
1. Pull out Any Remaining stems, vines and Weeds.
Arguably one of the most important things you can do during this transition from autumn to winter is clearing out all the debris from the current growing season. Debris referring to all the stems, vines, weeds and various other plant matter still embedded in your garden.
But why clear out your garden now rather than at the beginning of spring? Other than getting the task over with and out of the way, there is one critical reason it’s important to eliminate any current plant matter sooner rather than later.
The reason being is that plants are home to many insects; and at this point in the year, many of those insects decide to lay their eggs in or around the various plant life within your garden. By removing unnecessary plants now, you remove unwanted the insects that may have been feeding on your plants earlier this year and curtail their efforts in creating more insects that would end up feeding off your garden next year.
After you have removed said plant matter from your garden, feel free to bury some of them back into your garden assuming they are free of any diseases. It’s always a great idea to add in a little bit more organic material into the soil of your garden.
2. Till in Soil Amenities
There is no better time to add amenities like compost, manure, blood meal and other various soil amenities to your garden than autumn. Though these tasks are typically reserved for spring, the ideal time to do it is in the fall because it allows the nutrients within said soil amenities ample time to break down and release into the existing soil within your garden. Think of it like a fine wine. The longer it has been aged, the better it is.
When spring rolls around, your garden soil will be nutrient rich and you will have an edge over your other gardeners who chose to wait to add in their soil amendments.
3. Cover up Raised Beds
Many gardeners utilize raised beds to grow their plants. Raised beds are great, but it’s important to protect the soil within these raised beds when not in use. An easy way to do this is to simply cover them up during the seasons of inactivity. When covering them up, most any kind of plastic sheet or blue tarp will do the trick. Another alternative for covering the soil would be hay. Despite this cheap alternative, a blue tarp or water resistant sheet is recommended because hay often consists of wheat seeds which may germinate and begin to grow in your garden around spring.
So what’s the reason for covering up your raised beds? The main reason for covering up garden beds when not in use is to protect it from the elements. Precipitation such as rain, sleet or snow will impact the soil and when it does, it drains into the soil of your garden, often taking nutrients within the top layers of the soil down with it. This in turn, will make it harder for next year’s plants to absorb the nutrients given that they are further down into the ground. Therefore it’s always a great idea to cover up and protect your garden beds for when winter rolls around.
4. Take Some Time to Review the Growing Season
After harvesting all the produce from my garden, I like to look back and review the growing season. What went well, what didn’t and ways I can improve for next year’s growing season. Learning from failure is one of the best ways you can improve in gardening and almost any other aspect in life for that matter. Another crucial part of reviewing the growing season is planning what to grow next year; or at least what not to grow. The reason for this is to optimize the garden for higher productivity for next year and also to ensure I don’t plant crops in the same area for more than a few years in a row. Crop rotation is essential for any successful garden.
To wrap up, the four ways to prepare your garden for the upcoming winter are to remove any remaining vines, weeds and stems from the garden, Till in your soil amenities to give time for the nutrients to release, cover up any raised beds to protect them from the elements and taking some time to review the concluded growing season and plan for the next one. By taking these steps now, not only do you get them out of the way, but you also better prepare your garden for the next growing season by allowing time for your garden to repair itself with the steps you have taken. So once you have those last few vegetables are harvested from your garden, take some time to prep your garden for next year’s growing season. Your future self will be thanking you!