7 tips for preparing your garden for winter
The efforts that you spend on arranging the vegetable beds in the fall will pay off handsomely in the spring, when you can easily and quickly start growing new plants. In this publication - some tips on autumn cleaning and preparing your garden for the next summer season.
Every fall, when the summer season is gradually coming to an end, I experience mixed feelings. Since the vegetation period of our plants is not very long, in September, usually begins a marathon for preserving blanks for the winter. I spend a significant part of my time in the kitchen, trying to keep up with the speed of harvesting (which occurs at almost all plantings overnight).
Usually not much attention is paid to the beds at this time - only daily inspections for the presence of ripened fruits and their harvesting. There is no time for weeding, pruning and vigilant maintenance of plant health. They remain on their own: either grow or wither.
By the time the October frosts begin, most of the garden is a mixture of dead or dying plants, weeds, or even rotting tomatoes. No more tomatoes, except for the crop that ripens on the kitchen table. There will be no more zucchini that can be rolled up in jars, no more cucumbers that can be salted, no more string beans that can be preserved.
As the summer season ends, I experience an increasing sense of satisfaction, preserving my harvest and filling the shelves and basements with cans of food. This is the reward for the hard work that has been done to grow plants, caring for them throughout the season. It’s also gratitude for all the time that was spent on washing, slicing fruits and making spins until late at night, when the whole house is already sleeping.
I feel some relief and sadness when the crop in most of the garden is harvested. But I know that I will feel much better when I go out and start preparing my garden for winter. What can I do to properly prepare my garden for winter?
1. Thoroughly clean all beds
By the end of the season, the vegetable garden is usually in such a mess that your hands might just drop. Break a large task into several small ones and clean up at least one bed at a time, until all of them are cleaned and prepared for winter.
Be sure to remove all dead plants. Some diseases, including late blight, as well as pests, may well overwinter on foliage and rotten fruits left in the garden. Therefore, remove all dead vegetation and all rotted fruits or vegetables. You can add healthy plant material to your compost. However, keep in mind that, most often, the compost heap is not warming enough to destroy a disease or fungus. Therefore, unhealthy plant debris affected by diseases, pests or molds are best disposed of with household waste or burned so that these problems do not spread to the entire compost heap.
2. Add a layer of finished compost and mulch to the peeled beds
Take away the old mulch, remove all weeds, as far as possible, put a layer of finished compost (2.5-5 cm thick), and then put the old mulch (thin layer) back in place. This will help in weed control and soil protection. Many diseases and pests die when the ground freezes in the cold season. However, too thick mulching of the beds will not allow the soil to freeze sufficiently. And when the ground freezes, add another layer of mulch for perennial grasses and flowers.
3. Do a test of your soil
Autumn is a great time to do a soil test and determine if it needs additional nutrients and adjustments to the pH level. The results of such a test will contain the following information:
- soil pH;
- levels of potassium (K), phosphorus (P), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg) and sulfur (S);
- organic material level;
- lead content.
Such information will help you determine how much lime and fertilizer (organic or mineral) you need to add to improve the condition of the soil. Lime is commonly used to adjust pH. Its addition in the fall is a particularly good solution, since during the winter it will completely dissolve in the soil. The remaining additives, designed to adjust its composition, are best made in the spring.
4. Plant the garlic
Choose a bed on which you did not grow onion crops this year, and plant garlic with an eye for the next summer season. Use a lot of compost and organic fertilizers for him.
It is best to plant garlic bulbs at a depth of about 10 cm and at a distance of about 15 cm from each other. Add a small layer of mulch after planting, and when the ground freezes with the plants resting in it, cover the bed with a more voluminous layer of mulch.
5. Expand your vegetable garden
Autumn is also a great time to expand your garden. Think about building a few tall beds or a few square meters of garden directly on top of the grass. Many garden hypermarkets arrange sales of organic soil and compost on the eve of the end of the summer season.
6. Collect the leaves
Without exaggeration, autumn leaves can be called gold for every gardener. At this time of the year, I try to collect as much fallen leaves as possible, and fill it with my compost containers, or put them in garbage bags. Such leaves can be used for mulching, as a brown component of compost, as well as deciduous humus.
Mulch: a thick layer of crushed fallen leaves on the surface of the beds can help in weed control, retain moisture and provide nutrition to the soil with valuable substances, since such mulch decomposes and contributes to the emergence of beneficial microorganisms.
Compost: fall foliage is the ideal brown (carbon) waste for compost heaps. I like it when I have a certain amount of fallen leaves in my stock, and I can add it to the compost right away, as the need arises to compensate for green (nitrogen) waste like kitchen waste.
Deciduous humus: over time, leaves collected in a pile or in a compost container are destroyed and form rich humus, which can be included in the soil to improve its structure and moisture level. Such humus also provides food for beneficial microorganisms.
One of the easiest ways to collect and grind fallen leaves is to use your lawn mower with or without a bag. If you are using a lawnmower with a bag, it will be an excellent mixture of shredded grass and leaves, which can be sent directly to the compost container. But even if your lawnmower does not have a bag to collect grass, you can direct it so that it collects chopped leaves and grass in about one pile. And then just put this heap in a compost bin or garbage bags.
7. Take notes
While cleaning your garden in the fall, think about what and how you have grown this season. Be sure to write down which plants you grew, which ones took root well and gave a lot of fruits, what crop you harvested. What pests did you have to fight this year? Were the beds that upset you? Writing down these nuances now, from fresh memory, you will get enough information for the competent planning of the next summer season. In addition, this will give you time to find solutions to the problems you are facing.
Enjoy the fall!
Get some pleasure from those cool autumn days that you spend at work in the garden. High humidity no longer makes outdoor work as exhausting as before. Look around, enjoy the beauty of your garden, lit by autumn sunlight. Take a deep breath and smell the wonderful smell of fresh earth. Soon everything will be covered with snow, and the next time you "see" the ground only in the spring.
Autumn care for cleaning the beds is an opportunity to start growing a new crop much easier and faster with the beginning of a new season. The beds will be waiting for you, ready for planting new plants. Just move the mulch, pull out the weeds, place organic fertilizers (based on the results of the autumn soil test) and sow the seeds, or put seedlings in the soil. During the winter, you will have enough time to dream about what you could grow in the new season by planning it well.