Winter is approaching.
The air has a bite to it. You are taking out sweaters from the back of your closet. You are preparing for winter.
But what about your garden? Here is how to prepare your garden in winter.
It can be easy to forget about the plants in your yard for winter.
Just like yourself, your garden needs care for the colder months.
Prepping your plants for winter is essential for soil health and plant growth. Without prepping your garden, the soil loses important nutrients that keep your plants healthy.
Come spring, your plants may become wilted and surrounded by weeds.
Taking the time to harvest herbs or vegetables before winter, clearing debris, and laying covers for your garden beds are just some of the ways to prep your garden for winter.
Whether you’re growing a small, self-contained urban garden or a sprawling rural oasis, it’s important that you take certain steps to safeguard the health of your plants and soil.
Let’s look at some ways to prep your garden for winter so they are healthy and thriving by spring.
Preparing My Vegetable Garden For Spring (Or Any Gardent)
Believe it or not, there are steps you can take during the colder months to protect your garden. It’s never too late! Here’s a list of 5 things you can do to prep your garden for spring.
Evaluate the state of your garden
When was the last time you took a good look at your plants? Take some time to comb through the garden to identify any dead or diseased plants. Pluck them out and throw them away.
This will allow your plants to grow undisturbed with all the right nutrients from the soil.
Overall, clear any debris that might affect the growth of your garden.
Prune your garden
This step is primarily for late winter or early spring, but it is still good to keep in mind. Make sure to prune away any old branches or wood to shape your bushes or plants the way you want them.
Be careful when using your pruning shears. I recommend cleaning them before each cut to prevent any diseases or debris from being spread from one plant to the next.
Get some mulch
Apply a thick layer of mulch in your garden beds. Anywhere from 3-5 inches of mulch will ensure that weeds don’t sprout. The mulch provides a protective layer for your soil so head to your local gardening center to get some.
Start planning new garden beds
Now is the perfect time to get excited about new gardening endeavors. Do you have a vision for a new garden section in your yard?
Purchase some supplies and start building those garden beds. Also, if you want to start planting some seeds to be ready for the warmer temperatures, now’s the time to let them germinate.
Check your soil
If your soil is still frozen or hard, it may be too early to start planting or working in the garden. Wait until the soil can be easily squeezed into a ball or it has a crumbly texture before planting anything.
How To Prepare Your Garden For Winter?
Fruits and veggies that thrived in the warmer climates are coming to their ends with the winter.
Annual flowers or shrubbery are preparing to go through their cycles come the colder climate.
No need to fear, there are things you can do to make sure your garden stays happy and healthy during the cold months.
Plant cover crops
Cover crops are primarily used to cover and protect your soil. Some cover crops include the following: oats, rye, phacelia, winter field beans or peas, clover, and vetch.
Each of these crops has slightly different functions, but their main purpose is to protect your soil from erosion and weeds.
If you compost, this step is fantastic for preparing your garden for winter. Harvest your compost to lay on top of your soil. This works similarly to cover crops but provides more rich nutrients for your soil.
Come spring, your plants or lawn will be greener and plentiful. Make sure you review your compost before distributing it to your garden beds.
Check to make sure that no acidic or diseased material is in it.
If you don’t have access to compost right away, another thing you can try is to run your flock of chickens through your plot, if you have them.
Chickens will deposit plenty of manure, fertilizing your soil as they nibble among your plants.
They can get rid of any lingering garden debris to prevent pests and pathogens from overwintering – and they’ll even gently till the soil for you! It’s a win-win.
Evaluate your garden tools
This step is commonly looked over because your primary concern is usually your plants. However, neglecting the state of your garden tools can lead to poor management of your plants.
For example, sharpening your tools regularly ensures clean cuts when pruning. This will assist the plant in an even and healthy growth after being cut.
In addition, properly oiling your tools will extend their lives and help you put off having to replace them.
Harvest tender vegetables and herbs before the frost
There are some vegetables (hardy vegetables) that are able to withstand colder weather.
However, tender vegetables like tomatoes or winter squash will not survive. Make sure to harvest and store them before it gets too cold outside.
As for the hardier vegetables, feel free to harvest them as well or allow them to experience the first frost.
Prepare your trees and shrubs
Pruning is great when preparing for spring, but you should avoid pruning your trees and shrubs before winter.
When you prune, you are essentially opening a wound on your plants. That wound needs the time and climate to heal.
Colder temperatures prevent that tree or shrub from healing properly and may affect their overall health.
Instead, cover these plants with a wooden structure or wrap them with chicken wire and leaves. Doing this will prevent injury during the winter.
Ensure moisture for your plants
The winter months are extremely drying. Plants still need moisture to promote a healthy thaw come spring.
Make sure that your plants are well-watered (although not over-watered) before winter. This way, they will retain that moisture.
Another way to preserve moisture is to wrap the trunks of trees with a layer of burlap.
Come fall, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of leaves scattered on the ground. Pick them up and use them as a cover for your garden beds.
Leaves can also be used for your compost pile which can be used to provide nutrients for your soil.
Prepare your herbs
Most herbs are hardy (such as thyme) and can withstand cold temperatures, but they still need some preparation to continue to thrive.
Try cutting off a few of the branches from the hardy herbs to dry and use for cooking.
Or, prepare your herbs in a similar way you would your other plants: cover the soil with a layer of mulch.
For the less hardy herbs like basil, transfer them to a pot and bring them inside. They enjoy a warmer climate.
Protect your perennial vegetables
Make sure that your hardy vegetables are well-watered during the autumn months so they don’t dry out and die during the harsh winter.
Veggies like Brussel sprouts or kale usually adopt a better taste after the first frost.
However, they should still be protected. Continue to water the veggies until the ground becomes hard.
Prune back any growth before winter and get rid of any debris that may be living among the plants.
How To Improve Garden Soil For The Winter
The health of your soil determines the health of your plants.
Ensuring nutrient-rich soil during winter will result in thriving plants come spring.
Here are 5 products on Amazon that will contribute to the health of your soil.
Soil testers are fantastic for measuring the pH of your soil.
You don’t want your soil to be too acidic or lack moisture.
These devices help you understand your soil’s needs so you can take proper action when preparing for winter.
We’ve talked about mulch before so it is going to make it on this list.
Mulch protects your soil from the bitter cold and helps retain moisture for your plants.
If you have hardy vegetables, mulch will help keep them alive through winter and into spring.
If you do not compost, I highly recommend starting. As stated previously, compost provides essential nutrients for your soil that lessens the need for extra fertilization.
Much like mulch, composting retains moisture.
You can use food waste or lawn trimmings for your composting. It helps the environment and helps your garden!
Cover crops, like mulch and compost, help protect the soil from eroding and drying out. The roots from the crops help hold the soil in place and control weeds that may spring up as spring approaches.
Some of the most popular winter cover crops are rye or crimson clover. Some cover crops die off in time for planting in spring while others need to be killed off by hand.
Your soil has three primary nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.
After testing your soil, you may need to adjust some of the nutrients.
To test your soil we recommend: Luster Leaf 1601 Rapitest Test Kit for Soil
For example, plants need a healthy amount of nitrogen for their roots to thrive.
Bone meal or ground eggshells are examples of organic nutrients for your soil.
That being said, here is an article regarding the big three nutrients in your soil and how to understand them.
Should I Cover My Vegetable Garden For Winter?
No matter if you’ve planted hardy, semi-hardy, or tender vegetables, you still need to cover the vegetable bed for winter.
There are various pests, diseases, and weeds that can sneak their way into your vegetable beds and ruin your plants.
As previously stated, you can use mulch or compost to cover the soil of your beds. You can even do a mixture of the two.
For example, you can put 1-2 inches of compost down then cover that layer with another 1-2 inches of mulch.
This provides your soil with enough insulation to help your plants withstand the winter hardships.
As for the plants themselves, the tender veggies need special attention. However, it doesn’t hurt to cover your more hardy vegetables either.
Spinach, broccoli, and kale are typically more resilient against cold temperatures, but they can slow down in growth.
Covering them with a floating row cover will help them remain healthy during this time.
You can purchase protective bags or covers to gently lay on top of the plants. This protects your vegetables from frost while still being well-ventilated.
If you want to protect your vegetable garden from pests, diseases, and freezing, most experts recommend covering the plants to stay on the safe side.
Winter Preparation For Spring- Necessary and Fun!
Winter preparation doesn’t have to go unnoticed! It is a great way to check in
with your tools and manage your garden. After the busy summer months of harvesting and planting, your garden could use a thorough look-over.
Besides, preparing your garden for winter means a little less work come springtime.
Preparing for winter to yield a thriving garden in spring can be fun. Not only do you keep your green thumb busy, but you can involve your family.
For example, you can encourage your family to put the associated food waste into the compost.
Or, if you are planning to add additional nutrients to your soil, you can ask your family to grind up the eggshells they use.
You can use this opportunity to teach your kids about the joys of cultivating your own garden.
Final Thoughts on How To Get Your Garden Ready For Spring
The biggest takeaway from this article is to take winter preparation seriously. Pests and diseases are less likely to attack your dormant garden if you take the necessary steps to prepare.
Your garden will thank you and you will be able to enjoy a greener, healthier garden when spring approaches.
Don’t worry if you can’t do everything listed in this article. Think of what you can do at home and use the resources you have. Gardening is a process, take it one step at a time.
Be patient and enjoy the yield of your garden
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