Tips to Prep Your Garden for Winter: Preserving and Building
Updated: Dec 25, 2021
This is garden winterizing 101. You may be thinking that garden winterizing is something you do when the garden season is over, but if you wait until then, your garden will have already lost its value and productivity for the year. The best time to preparing your garden for winter is in late fall or early winter. It's not too late! Here are a few tips on what you can do with your garden this winter so it can thrive once spring comes around again. Read to the end to see what to avoid.
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Now that winter is approaching it's and all my outside annuals are dead it's time to garden prep. Winter garden preparation starts now, not after winter hits.
Getting garden beds ready for winter months can be broken down into 3 steps: cutting all the plants at the ground level and leaving the roots in the ground; mowing my leaves and chopping them up so they break down faster over the winter; covering garden beds with the leaves.
My first step is to cut the dead annuals down at the ground level and then add them to the compost pile to add to my garden soil. Leaving the roots in the garden beds is a controversial step for winter garden prep, but I have found it to be helpful because as they decompose overwinter their nutrients are released back into the garden bed and help build up organic matter which will help retain moisture come spring. The roots also allow passageways for the flow of water to travel throughout the garden bed when it rains.
Mowing my leaves is step number two for winter garden prep, chopping them up so they break down faster over the winter months, and covering garden beds with those chopped-up leaves. The reason I do this is that it adds organic matter to garden beds which helps retain moisture come springtime when everything starts growing again. You can use leaves from other people but don't use their grass in case they sprayed their yard or are using weed killer on their lawns as you will be taking that into your garden bed with you! The leaves will also call out to the earthworms so that they can come up into the garden beds and leave their castings behind which is of course fertilizer for your garden. One of the best fertilizers you can have in your garden bed.
The third step is to add woodchips to the perennial beds that I have growing in my garden. At the end of the season, I go to my local recycle center and get as many free woodchips as I want and cover the beds with raspberries, strawberries, and other perennials. I do this for the same purpose as the leaves. I also add leaves to these beds. I also mulch around the garden with these wood chips. It helps keep weeds at bay, holds in moisture which is especially helpful when watering your garden beds because it will be less water you are using to do that task and over time the wood chips break down into organic matter for your garden bed.
Fertilizing in the fall is the best time in my opinion. Garden soil is always better when you add organic matter to it by the garden bed itself because then that's all that garden will be fed. You can also do a fall clean-up in your garden beds and remove perennials you don't want to keep, dead plants, etc., but make sure to compost them instead of throwing them away.
Winterizing vegetable garden beds can very much depend on where you live and what type of winter weather each year brings you. For example, gardeners in the southern states can plant a winter garden that will keep growing all winter long. This is because there isn't much snow and cold weather where they live. For gardeners in the Midwest and northern states, this is not an option. The garden beds must be winterized to ensure that they can survive whatever type of weather you get over the winter months.
I wouldn't add more than a couple of inches of mulch on top of the beds. Although they look nice the colored woodchips should be avoided because they will add chemicals into your garden beds that you don't want in there. I wouldn't add anything unnatural as a covering.
Winter is a time for rest, but it can also be a great opportunity to prepare your garden for the coming of next spring. You’ll want to winterize your garden by protecting plants from frost and cold temperatures with natural coverings like mulch or straw around vulnerable ones before they freeze. But you should avoid using unnatural covers such as plastic sheets which cause soil compaction and create an environment that’s less beneficial for roots in the long run. If you have questions about getting started, don't hesitate to leave them below! Remember, we're here all year round so feel free to ask us anything anytime.