Did you know that preparing your garden for winter will make things much easier for you to get your garden ready for planting in the spring? Do you believe that when the weather starts getting cold and the leaves start to fall it’s time to stash your gardening tools and wait for spring? Nothing could be further from the truth. Fall and winter are the times to make sure your garden is healthy and ready when the spring thaw comes.
When the nighttime temperatures drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit for a week or frost is forecast for a few days, it’s time to get to work winterizing your garden spot. It doesn’t take that much time, and you’ll be glad you did when spring comes, and it’s time to start planting.
Things To Do Now
The first thing you want to do when preparing your garden for winter is to evaluate how your plants fared during the past growing season. For instance, did some plants not do well because they were in a spot that got too much shade? Is there a different spot in the garden you could plant them next year, so they will get more sun? These are things you will want to write down now while they are fresh in your mind. Don’t expect that you’ll have perfect recall of these things 4 or 5 months from now when you are getting ready for another planting season. Having those notes to refresh your memory will save you from making the same mistake twice.
You’ll want to evaluate if you had any plants that don’t do well in your climate. For instance, when I lived in Northwest Florida, we got a lot of rain during the spring and summer. Try as I might, I could not get a good crop of any kind of squash due to the wetness. And the only way I was able to grow cucumbers without losing them to leaf fungus was to grow them on a trestle off the ground. These are things you’ll want to consider.
You can also plant hardy cold-weather plants during this time. Check a zone map for winter vegetables and times to plant in your area.
Cleaning Up Your Garden
Once you have your plan together for next year you should take the time to till your garden to remove weeds and leaves that have fallen. Cleaning up your garden is a very important step in preparing your garden for winter. This is also a good time to work in compost, so it can break down and feed the soil over the winter. I use a compost bin to break down yard clippings and vegetable scraps during the summer. I then mulch the leaves and mix that all together and till it into my garden in the fall. This allows me to use far less fertilizer on the garden during the growing season, as I have added natural fertilizer by working in the compost and shredded yard waste.
After you have worked your compost into the soil you can place mulch over the garden to protect the soil and keep weeds from sprouting during the cold months. Some weeds are fine with the cool weather and will sprout in the garden while you are spending time staying warm this winter. 4-5 inches of shredded bark or pine needles will discourage any weeds from taking hold over the winter.
Caring For Your Trees
Once the leaves fall you should be able to easily spot any rotten branches in your trees. Trimming them now can keep them from coming down on your garden during Spring storms. You can also decide if you should cut back branches that are blocking too much sun from your garden.
If you have younger fruit or nut trees, now is the time to place stakes to support them and protect them from the howling winds of winter to keep them from being blown over. It may be that you need to wrap them as well to keep them from being broken during any accumulation of snow or ice. Mulch them around the roots to help them survive the snowy winter and prevent weeds when Spring returns.
Caring For Your Tools
Once you have your garden prepared for winter it’s time to clean your gardening tools and store them. Now is a good time to sharpen shovels and other sharp implements and to coat them with a light coat of grease or machine oil to keep them from rusting over the winter. If you have tools with wooden handles you can treat them to keep them from absorbing moisture and cracking during a freeze. You can use fractionated coconut oil to treat the wooden handles on your garden tools. Soak a cloth in the oil and rub it liberally into the handle. Let the handle sit for 10 minutes to an hour and then wipe with a clean, dry cloth. Be sure and bring the tools inside and let them come to room temperature before treating them.
Now that you are finished preparing your garden for winter you can relax. You know that your garden will be ready when Spring arrives, and you will be able to plant a beautiful garden that will provide abundant healthy vegetables for your family.