When the harvest season winds down and the abundance of the late summer and early fall has been brought in, it’s the time to put the garden to bed. Here’s how to prepare your garden for the winter and for optimal vigor in the spring.
Harvest the last of…
- basil for pesto
- herbs for herbal teas
- tomatoes, okra, sweet potatoes, squashes and pumpkins
Clear and Cut back
- Clean up any remaining dead plant matter and compost it, unless it is diseased.
- Cut back herbs and perennial vegetables such as asparagus and rhubarb. It helps them to grow with new vigor in the spring.
- Cut runners from strawberries, and top-dress them with compost.
- Cut old fruiting canes of raspberry and blackberry.
Amend and cover the soil
- Dig in amendments such as compost, manure, bone meal, kelp, or rock dust. They will have all winter to break down and enrich your soil.
- Rake leaves and mulch garden beds with them. A thick layer of mulch helps to regulate the soil temperature, protects your crops from freezing, and adds organic matter into the soil.
- Alternatively, leave the leaves where they are – it’s free fertilizer for your lawn, and an all-around good thing to do.
- Plant a winter-hardy cover crop such as rye, vetch or Austrian winter pea. Cover crops help to prevent erosion, as all those tiny roots hold the soil in place; they aerate the soil and break up compacted lumps; they increase the level of organic matter in the soil. A leguminous cover crop such as vetch or peas adds nitrogen to the soil. Grasses, such as rye, improves the structure of compacted soil.
Protect your plants
- Take cold-sensitive house plants and potted tropical plants indoors
- Protect young trees and shrubs from deer, rabbits etc.
- Prepare to protect overwintering vegetables with row covers. Mulch all the frost-sensitive plants with straw or leaves to protect them from frost.
We get to plant some, too, in the fall! Fall is the time to plant:
- Garlic, shallots, and leeks (mulch generously to cover them well)
- Flower bulbs (daffodil, crocus, tulip etc.) that will surprise you with their color in the spring
With these simple measures, your garden will wake up with the return of the spring, rested under cozy blankets of organic matter and replenished by amendments and cover crops.