Gardening Tips

How to Prepare Your Garden for Winter

Even though there are tons of plants, perennials, and flowers you can have in your garden for winter (depending on your geographical location) you need to prepare your garden beforehand so it’s the perfect home for your plants. This is the time of year when your perennials will start to lose their color and leaves and will need extra care in order to survive the winter – if they’re a winter plant.

Preparing your garden for winter will also help you when spring time rolls around. There’s that much less you need to do, and you won’t have to start from scratch. Taking the time to add mulch to your vegetables, fruit trees, and perennials will protect them from the freezing temperatures and prevent frost heaving. Removing invasive weeds will protect your plants from disease and overgrowth. Updating your tools will elongate their shelf life so you can save money and keep your tools for longer. We’ll explain the best ways to prepare your garden for winter so you can have an abundant, nourished garden come springtime.

Add Mulch

Make sure there’s at least six inches of mulch around your plants to prevent frost heaving. This is when plants are pushed out of the ground due to thawing. You’ll want to look for loose, coarse, and textured materials to insulate the soil, especially once temperatures fall below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you don’t add mulch too early to prevent weakening of the plant.

Adding mulch in winter also helps prevent exposing the ground to freezing temperatures and natural movement that occurs when the weather changes. When the soil moves, small plants can get pulled out of the soil and will die. Many plants that are exposed to winter chill can also be damaged, so adding mulch will help prevent this from happening.

Some of the best mulch for winter is shredded bark, bark chips, nut shells, evergreen branches, chopped leaves, dried plant leaves, and straw. Straw is one of the most inexpensive items to use for mulch, as it’s a lightweight and inexpensive insulator. Shells from nuts prevent slugs from decomposing your garden, and bark chips help your mulch stay in place as it adds texture and is hard to move.

Any waste that cannot be used as compost or mulch should be burned. This is a great way to have another item for your garden and put waste to good use. The ash from burned wood has potassium, which can be used in small amounts in your compost. Rake any leaves that have fallen to the ground and move them into your compost pile or turn them into mulch.

Clean Up Trees and Plants

Cut away any dead branches and leaves. Make sure you give them plenty of water to help them retain moisture. You can also make a plastic or wooden fence, strategically placed in front of your plants, to protect them from winter desiccation injury. This is when your plants lose more water than the roots are absorbing.

By cleaning up trees and plants, you’ll also be preventing your garden from developing a disease or succumbing to pest and fungus invasion. By burying old leaves and plants, you have free mulch and organic matter for your soil.

Remove Invasive Weeds

Those garlic mustard weeds that crept their way around your luscious garden probably did more damage than you even realize. It’s time to prevent those pesky weeds by removing them before winter sets in. They’re invasive to your plants. This is also a great way to prevent them from growing again next year.

Soil Preparation

Add nutrients to your soil to prepare it for springtime. You can add things like kelp, bone meal, and compost. To prevent damage, you can till your soil. It’s a good idea to add at least two inches of organic material each year to your mulch and soil in order to prepare it for springtime.

Sow Seeds

If you have any seeds in your garden that need a longer growing season, such as peppers and aubergines, then you should start to sow them in the winter months.

Sowing seeds is simple and straightforward. Find some trays to place your seeds inside of and fill it with compost. Moisten the soil, sprinkle the seeds, and place it in a warm place. If you take good care to sow the seeds that need a longer time to grow, then they will be abundant come springtime!

Update Your Tools

Wintertime is a great time of year to replenish and rejuvenate your tools in your shed. Since your garden won’t need as much attention during the winter months, you’ll have more time on your hands to care for your tools. Remove rust with sandpaper and wash off all of the dirt that has caked on to your tools. Oil your tools to extend their shelf life so you can use them for years to come. Wash all of your garden equipment and tools to get rid of any dirt. Let them dry to prevent them from growing mold and discoloring.

Vegetables

If you have any root vegetables in your garden like beets, carrots, turnips, and parsnips, you can leave these in the ground once the frost sets in. Keep in mind that you eventually have to remove them before the ground fully freezes over. Parsnips become sweeter when the frost sets in but still need to be covered during the winter.

You can also leave greens like kale and cabbages, but make sure you keep an eye on them after a light frost settles over. Spinach can survive the winter even though their leaves will die. As long as you cover it up with mulch and protect it from the frost, it will survive until springtime. Lettuce can survive until ten degrees Fahrenheit. Chard does well until around 15 degrees Fahrenheit, until it needs to be covered when the freezing temperatures set in.

You should remove all dead vegetation that has accumulated over the summer and fall months. This will prevent disease and give more space for your vegetables to grow come springtime. It’s also a good idea to get your soil tested for things like potassium and pH levels. This will give you a good indicator of how much compost and nutrients you’ll need to add for maximum benefits. It’s also a good baseline to understand how your gardening habits are affecting the health of your soil.

Planting garlic and rhubarb before the ground freezes over is a good way to ensure you’ll have them for the springtime. You can also plant a cover crop like crimson clover or winter rye to prep your garden and soil. This is one of the best ways to let your garden rest during the wintertime, and a great way to prevent weeds from growing

Herbs

Sage does well until freezing temperatures. Then, all you have to do is cut off the branches, and you’re good to go. Thyme will survive through the winter and then revive itself once springtime rolls around. Protect oregano with straw mulch and cover parsley on cold nights.

Fruit

Your fruit trees need protecting and preparation for winter. The roots are the most vulnerable part, so you will need to take some steps to make sure they’re protected before the frost settles in. That way, you’ll have an abundance of fruit when the spring comes. You can mulch the roots of the tree, but make sure you mulch with slowly decomposing material like straw or gravel so it lasts through the winter. The hollow stems in the straw trap in the air.

Protect your plants with an evergreen hedge to prevent harsh, frosty winds from destroying them. Plants that are exposed to wind will become damaged over time as they lose their water. By preventing winds from ever reaching them, you will have sturdier, healthier plants once the winter is over.

It’ll take effort and time to prepare your garden for winter. By ignoring these tasks, your garden will suffer through the winter, and you’ll have a lot of work ahead of you when spring rolls around! You can take your time doing these tasks, as long as you finish them before the first frost sets in. That way, you’ll have that much less work when the warm weather comes.

You’ll need to take a little bit of time to care for your plants, vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Using a nutrient dense mulch will keep your plants healthy and give your plants enough nutrients to survive the winter. Updating your tools will let you jump right into gardening once winter is over and will help extend the shelf life of your tools. Cleaning up weeds and dead plants will prevent disease and keep your soil healthy. Sow any seeds you have that need a longer growing season so that they’re ready by the time spring comes.

Having a garden takes time and effort, but the results are very rewarding! Soon, you can enjoy the delicious fruits and vegetables you’ve grown yourself – and even show them off to your friends and family members by having a spring time picnic!

Sources

Earth Easy. “10 Ways to Prepare Your Garden for Winter” https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/ten-ways-to-prepare-your-garden-for-winter/

Grow Veg. “Preparing Your Garden for Winter” https://www.growveg.com/guides/preparing-your-garden-for-winter/

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