Preparing your garden for winter is important work and makes your job much easier in the spring when you want to get planting. I write this as I watch snow fall out our living room window in early November in Vermont, the first snow of the year. I would be lying if I told you I had gotten to all the things I’m going to suggest you do to get your garden prepared for winter, but I still might have time to pull that parsley out of the garden.
Clean up Vegetable Garden
The first thing you should do when getting your garden ready for winter is to pull out all the dead and dying vegetables, everything has had a good run and hopefully you got to enjoy lots of fresh food throughout the summer. If you compost you will want to make sure you don’t add any diseased plants to it. Many compost piles don’t get hot enough to destroy the disease or fungus, so it’s best to put those plants in a separate space if possible. Where I live they have a town dump area just for yard waste, maybe there is something similar where you live?
If you have leaves available to you they make great mulch. After you rake up your leaves you can add a 1-2 inch layer of them on top of your garden bed. The leaves will help keep weeds out of your garden and will break down and add some nutrients back to your soil as well. If you’re also composting at home leaves are easy to add to the compost and a really good source of carbon, a healthy compost needs a good supply of brown material to properly break down. If you have a more traditional garden, one directly in the ground you can potentially leave root vegetables, like carrots, in the ground for some time after it freezes. To do this you need a good layer of mulch on top of them to help prevent them from freezing.
Plant Fall Bulbs
There are some things that need to be planted in the winter, so after the garden beds are cleaned up you can go about planting things like garlic or flowers like tulips and daffodils. Fall is a great time to start thinking about what you want to try growing next year and what worked well for you and what didn’t. If you’ve decided on a theme garden, like planting vegetables and herbs for fresh summer salsa planting your garlic now will be beneficial. While you can plant your garlic in the spring, fall planted garlic produces larger bulbs.
If you are container gardening and want to plant some spring bulbs this is also a great time to do so and I have some tips just for this here.
Storing Containers for Winter
If you have been planting all of your vegetables in containers, you will want to properly store those containers so that they can be used for years to come. If you have garlic or other fall planted bulbs in a container or two you will need to properly store those so they don’t freeze hard. Containers will freeze harder than the ground and you want to protect the bulbs you just planted. One way to protect you container from a hard freeze is to bury it in the ground and then add a layer of mulch on the container. You can also store them in a garage or shed to help protect them from cold weather.
For containers, you don’t have plants overwintering in it’s best to store them out of the elements if possible. Extreme cold temperatures can make pots more brittle and if the dirt gets water logged it can potentially crack the pot. Storing your pots empty is always an option and re-buying soil in the spring works. If you would like to try to reuse your soil for a few years you can always add manure, compost and fertilizer to the pots in the spring when you get ready to plant again.
Once your garden is all cleaned up and you’ve planted any fall bulbs the last thing to do is enjoy the fall weather. Those warm sunny days and cool nights are perfect for getting outside on a hike and to do a little leaf peeping. Did you get your garden put to bed before the first snow fall?