6 Easy Ways to Prepare Your Garden for Winter
Winter is coming.
And that means you’ll need to get your garden prepared for the cold months or you risk running into some serious problems. How much you need to do likely depends on the climate you’re in, but most areas will have at least a couple of frosts that can prove devastating.
So, let’s hop in and see what we can do to save you the trouble of having to deal with the issues that can come with cold snaps, rain, and snow as the year grinds to an end.
Strip Old Plants and Use Them
Many plants are going to start dying as Autumn rolls in. This causes two big problems: it looks terrible and the cold will preserve the plant matter to make them a ready source of food once garden pests start waking up in the spring.
While most of us strip these plants down, pulling the roots and doing whatever it takes to get the unsightly mess of dead plant matter out of the way, they generally end up in the green waste bin.
And that’s a great idea for those plants which have suffered from pests through the growing and harvest seasons. Get rid of them by all means, either by burning or letting the truck handle them.
On the other hand, you don’t have to let the rest of these plants go to waste. You can put them in a compost bin or, even better, strip them into smaller chunks and bury them 4-6” deep depending on how cold winter gets. The soil will keep them warm and let microfauna break them down to create ready-to-go compost when you till the soil before your next planting.
Consider Winter Crops
You don’t have to let all of your garden beds go dormant in the winter. You can actually get quite a bit of use out of beds in the winter.
Crops that are winter-hardy are a great option to keep getting productive usage out of your garden.
There are two approaches you can take. In areas with lesser rainfall, where there’s less chance of erosion, planting alliums like garlic and tuber plants like potatoes is a great way to keep the garden productive through winter.
In areas where rainfall is a problem consider crops that will provide more cover for the soil like kale or peas that can often survive through winter and their denser foliage will provide protection from the rain and prevent soil erosion.
Mulch Unused Plots and Beds
Unused beds can be prepared for Spring easily.
Spread compost from your bin (you do have one, right?) over the bed and then cover it with a layer of mulch. If you do this before the rainy season hits it’ll both help prevent erosion and revitalize the soil’s nutrients before you do any planting.
Depending on how old the climate is in your area you may still want to cover your beds, however.
You can also lay the fertilizer of your choice during this period. Happy soil bacteria make for a more productive garden when Springtime comes and using the winter months productively can make a big difference.
Bring Herbs Into the Patio
If you have an enclosed patio then there’s no need to lose your herb garden. Most will do fine throughout winter as long as they have sunlight and aren’t allowed to frost over.
Enclosed patios are ideal, although you can also bring them into the home. If you’re in a harsher climate you should consider using an electric heater such as an Ener-G+ to keep the temperature ideal.
If your patio isn’t conducive to being warmed efficiently then find a good window indoors and put them there to keep the plants alive and productive through the harsher days of winter.
Cover Unused Plant Beds
Make sure to cover any unused beds to help prevent erosion. Depending on your garden’s exact configuration you may be able to use plastic sheeting or have to invest in larger tarps.
This basic step will keep soil in tip-top shape, especially if you’ve also decided to invest in some fertilizers that will help keep things going through the winter.
Use Winter Downtime Productively
Just because there’s a bit less to do in the garden doesn’t mean you need to ignore your hobby and set everything aside during winter’s reign.
The time spent in the garden previously can be used to plan ahead for the next season. Buying heirloom seeds of your favorite plants, planning where to put next year’s crops, and generally keeping up the anticipation of the growing season are great ideas.
If the climate allows it, you can even build new beds during the cold season. Many people use this time to construct raised beds, racks for potted plants, and even lay down garden beds if the frost lets up for long enough.
Lastly, you can use this time to maintain your tools. Many of us get caught up in the excitement that goes on throughout the year and sharpening and oiling tools become less of a priority than it should be. So get your hand and power tools up to par before Spring to get a headstart.
Winter is Here, Don’t Fear
Winter isn’t a death-knell for your garden. It’s just a time that you can use to help prepare for the next growing season. The above ways to keep your garden going may not be as exciting as tilling soil and planting flower beds but you’ll be surprised at the difference they can make.
So, don’t let your green thumb expire during a cold spell. Just make sure you’ve got things prepared for the most productive year you’ve seen yet.