Putting The Garden To Sleep For The Winter

Jerry and I have been steadily working at cleaning up the garden to put it to bed for the winter.

We’ve taken out the raised beds (which were falling apart), pulled up everything that was finished producing for the year along with many tall weeds (a work in progress), and filled the compost bin with all of the scraps.

autumn garden ready for winter
autumn garden ready for winter

We cleaned out trash, put the empty pots in the shed, and cleared off the potting table.

Yes. Our garden is resting until Spring.

I would still like to put in a few things, maybe in one or two new raised beds. There is still time to plant garlic, shallots, and onions. And the strawberries still need to be relocated. But right now I’m just focusing on getting reorganized again, first.

There is a lot I can be doing right now to be preparing for planting time in Spring. Here are a few of the things we’ve been focusing on.

1. Tilling the Garden and Amending the Soil

We’ll be tilling it up again sometime next week, and then top dressing the soil in the garden to work in organic matter. I’m thinking more of a lasagna method idea.

Spreading around leaves, hay or straw, manure, grass clippings (from untreated lawn), wood chips and pine needles, layering them with compost, and allowing these things to break down over the winter is a great way to build the soil’s richness, and loosen our dense red clay.

This mulching will also help prevent new weeds from growing up and taking over.

2. Plant a Cover Crop

You could plant a cover crop (which would also build up the soil and fight weeds), to be tilled in come Spring time, but I think it’s too late for me to do that here.

A cover crop is a plant that is grown for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of soil. Cover crops are often used in agricultural settings, where they can help to prevent erosion and improve fertility. However, they can also be beneficial in home gardens.

Cover crops help to add organic matter to the soil, which can improve drainage and promote healthy plant growth.

They also help to suppress weeds and reduce the need for chemical herbicides. In addition, cover crops can provide a source of food and shelter for beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and bees.

Some of the most popular cover crops include alfalfa, clover, and rye. Each of these plants has unique benefits that can help to improve the health of your garden.

Alfalfa, for example, is a nitrogen-rich legume that can help increase soil fertility. Clover is an excellent choice for gardens that are prone to drought, as it helps to retain moisture in the soil. Rye is a hardy grain that can help to improve drainage and prevent compaction.

3. Don’t Stop Planting (If You Don’t Want To!)

Many people think that once the cold weather sets in, their gardens will become dormant until the spring. However, with a little planning, you can keep your garden growing throughout the winter months.

Some landscape plants, such as evergreens and hollies, will retain their foliage all year round. Others, such as grasses and sedges, go dormant in the winter but will still add texture and interest to your garden.

The fall season is also the perfect time to plant vegetables in the vegetable garden that will grow and thrive during the winter months. Some of the best vegetables to plant in the fall include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale, and spinach.

These vegetables are all hardy plants that can withstand colder temperatures and even a light frost.

4. Prune Herbaceous Perennials (But Skip Woody Perennials)

To get your garden ready for next year, it’s important to prune herbaceous perennials in the fall or early winter. This will help them to grow back stronger and healthier in the early spring.

Woody perennials, on the other hand, should be left unpruned so that they can develop strong root systems over the winter.

Pruning them now would encourage new growth that would be vulnerable to frost damage. So when it comes to pruning, remember to skip the woody perennials and focus on the herbaceous ones. Your garden will thank you for it come springtime.

5. Mulch

Mulching your garden in the fall can provide a number of benefits during the winter months. For starters, it can help to insulate your plants, protecting them from the cold. In addition, mulch helps to prevent water evaporation, keeping your soil moist and promoting healthy plant growth.

raised beds mulched in hay

Fall is also a good time to add nutrients to your soil, which will be locked in by the mulch and released gradually over the course of the winter.

This will give your plants a boost when they begin growing again in the spring. Mulching helps to suppress weed growth, giving you one less thing to worry about come springtime.

6. Consider Waiting Until After the Freeze to Add Compost

Many gardeners like to add a layer of compost to their gardens in the fall, in order to provide nutrients for next year’s plants.

Compost helps to improve drainage and aeration, and it also adds nutrients that plants need to thrive. However, gardeners should beware of adding compost too early in the season. If the compost is added before the ground has frozen, it will leach out quickly when the thaw comes.

As a result, it is best to wait until after the freeze to add compost to the soil. This will give the compost time to leach in slowly, providing plants with the nutrients they need to survive the winter.

7. Clean, Sterilize, Sharpen, and Purge Your Garden Tools

As the fall season comes to an end, it’s important to take some time to properly clean and sterilize your garden tools before putting them away for the winter. This will help to prevent rust and other damage that can occur when tools are stored for extended periods of time.

rusty tools
rusty tools

First, use a wire brush or other tool to remove any dirt or debris from the surface of the tools. Then, disinfect the tools using a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. letting them soak for at least 10 minutes. Finally, rinse the tools with clean water and dry them thoroughly before storing them in a cool, dry place.

8. Drain the Hose and Store Irrigation Equipment

As the weather cools and the days grow shorter, it’s time to start thinking about winterizing your irrigation system. Properly preparing your system for winter will help to protect it from the elements and ensure that it will be ready to go when spring arrives.

The first step is to drain all of the water from the hose. This will help to prevent the hose from freezing and cracking. Next, disconnect any sprinklers or other devices that are attached to the hose. Once everything is disconnected, coil up the hose and store it in a dry, sheltered location.

Finally, remove any loose dirt or debris from around the valve box and cover it with a weatherproof lid.

9. Bring Potted Plants Indoors

As the weather gets cooler in the fall, many people start to think about bringing their potted plants indoors. While this is a good idea for some plants, others do better if left outside. Here are a few things to consider when deciding whether to bring your potted plants indoors for the winter.

First, consider the type of plant. Some plants, like succulents, need lots of sunlight and may not do well if placed in a dark room for the winter.

Others, like ferns, prefer shady conditions and might suffer if placed in a sunny spot. Think about where you’ll be able to provide the right conditions for your plant before bringing it indoors.

Next, take a look at the pot itself. Is it big enough to accommodate the plant’s roots for the entire winter? If not, you may want to upgrade to a larger pot or move the plant into the ground before the first frost sets in.

Finally, check for signs of pests or diseases. If your plant is infested with insects or has any fungal growths, it’s best to leave it outside so you don’t risk spreading these problems to other plants in your home.

10. Add Winter Protection for Shrubs and Fruit Bushes/Trees

As the weather starts to cool down in the fall, it’s important to take steps to winterize your shrubs and fruit bushes/trees. By doing this, you’ll help them to withstand the colder temperatures and avoid damage from frost or heavy snow.

One way to protect shrubs and fruit bushes/trees is to wrap them in burlap. This will create a barrier against the cold winds and help to keep the plants warm.

Another option is to cover the plants with a frost blanket. This will also provide insulation against the cold and can be removed during warmer days so that the plants can get some air.

11. Label Any New Additions and Tag Plants You Want to Divide

The fall is a good time to take inventory of your plants and prepare for winter. Any new additions to the garden should be labeled so you know where they are located.

Plants that you want to divide can be tagged so you remember to do that in the spring. This is also a good time of year to replant any bulbs that didn’t bloom or come up as expected.

12. Test the Soil pH

It’s important to test the soil pH in the fall to get ready for winter. This will help you determine what type of fertilizer to use and how much to apply. It’s also a good idea to test the soil pH before planting a new garden.

This will help you choose plants that are best suited for your soil type. The ideal range for most plants is 6.0 to 7.0.

Anything below 6.0 is considered acidic, while anything above 7.0 is alkaline.

To test your soil pH, simply purchase a soil testing kit from your local garden center or nursery. Follow the instructions included with the kit, and be sure to take multiple samples from different parts of your garden.

Once you have your results, you can adjust the pH accordingly. If your soil is too acidic, you can add lime to raise the pH. If it’s too alkaline, you can add sulfur to lower the pH.

13. Save Those Leaves

Many gardeners view fallen leaves as nothing more than a nuisance, but there are actually many ways to use them in the garden. For example, leaves can be used as a mulch to help regulate soil moisture and prevent weed growth.

They can also be added to the compost pile to create a nutrient-rich soil amendment. In addition, leaves can be used to create natural dyes for fabric or paint.

14. Dig Up Tender Bulbs

One important task is to dig up any tender bulbs that won’t survive the cold weather. This includes tender varieties of dahlias, Gladiolus, and caladiums.

Bulbs can be dug up by hand or with a shovel, and they should be stored in a cool, dark place until spring. When digging up bulbs, be careful not to damage them; bruised or broken bulbs are more likely to rot over the winter.

15. Start Curing Winter Storage Veggies

Curing is a process of allowing vegetables to further ripen after they have been harvested. This can be done by storing them in a warm, dry place with good ventilation. After a few weeks, the vegetables will be cured and ready for long-term storage.

Some of the best vegetables for curing include onions, potatoes, and winter squash. So if you want to enjoy homegrown produce all winter long, be sure to start curing your veggies in the fall.

16. Manage Weeds

Gardeners know that weeds are a constant battle. But there are things that can be done in the fall to get ahead of them for next year. One is to cut them down and dispose of them properly.

This will prevent them from going to seed and coming back even stronger next year. Another is to use mulch in the garden beds. This will help to prevent new weed seeds from germinating.

Finally, it is important to keep the garden beds free of debris and weeds so that they are not providing a place for weeds to take root.

17. Put Down a Layer of Straw

Straw helps to insulate the soil, keeping it warmer for longer. This is especially beneficial in areas where the winters are particularly cold. Additionally, straw helps to prevent weeds from taking root.

Weeds not only compete with your plants for nutrients and water, but they can also harbor diseases that can harm your crops.

By laying down a thick layer of straw, you can create a barrier that will greatly reduce the number of weeds in your garden. Finally, straw is an excellent source of organic matter.

As it decomposes, it will add much-needed nutrients and moisture to the soil, improving its overall health.

As you can see, there are many good reasons to put down a layer of straw in the fall. Not only does it help to protect your plants from the cold winter weather, but it also prevents weeds from taking over and adds vital nutrients to the soil.

18. Let Loose the Chickens

As the fall garden comes to a close, many gardeners find themselves with an overabundance of fruits and vegetables, including all that garden waste. Rather than let this produce go to waste, consider letting a few chickens loose in your fall garden.

Chickens are excellent foragers and will help clean up your garden while providing you with fresh eggs. Just be sure to keep an eye on them, as they can also do some damage to your plants.

When letting chickens loose in your fall garden, it’s important to provide them with a few key items: a water source, plenty of shade, and plenty of space to roam.

With these things in mind, you can enjoy the benefits of having chickens in your fall garden without worrying about too much mess or damage.

Plan Ahead for Next Year

I’ve already been thinking about how I want to improve next year’s garden, how I want it all laid out, and what I can be doing now to get it ready.

One of the problems I had this year was not getting stuff staked or trellised before it got too big. I’m hoping to go ahead and get trellises in place over the next couple of months, so they are ready to go come planting time.

I also need to get out there and mulch around my perennials (my artichokes, fruit trees, herbs, and elderberry bushes), to keep them warm through the freezing temps that are sure to come.

Get Ready for Winter – and Think Ahead for Spring

So, even though planting and harvesting times are over, the work is never done! There is still plenty to do to keep me busy in the garden until Spring comes again.

What about you, how do you prepare your garden space to rest through the winter? And what types of things do you do now in order to be one step ahead once planting time arrives?

6 thoughts on “Putting The Garden To Sleep For The Winter”

  1. I’ve had good luck with getting some of our green tomatoes to ripen. If you put them in brown paper bag with an apple, many of them will ripen on their own. The apple gives off a chemical that simulates how many of the commercial tomatoes are ripened during shipping. Alternatively, I’ve seen some interesting recipes for green tomato chutney….

  2. I have started the layering method that Angela described above. It is very rewarding to look at your fresh bed of layers and know that through the winter it will decompose and be ready for new seedlings in the spring. One reason I like this method is it doesn’t take a rototiller or back breaking hours of turning the soil (which I used to do). My question is how do you get “duck poop water”? I have ducks so I’d love to know how Angela gets it for the garden beds.

  3. We pulled everthing up and will add a layer of mulch from our compost bin, we planted turnip greens in two of our beds, they are doing nicely, and we planted two blueberry bushes and are looking to add more berry bushes this weekend. I am intersted in cold frame construction for more winter vegetables. We are also going to work on a chicken coop for spring chicks. Now what to do with all the green tomatoes we had to pull off the vines this weekend?

  4. We’re actually still planting here in FL. I just put in some lettuce, leeks, carrots and eggplant.

    Your garden will be in great shape come plantin’ time!

  5. We’ve started the process of composting all of our exhausted cucumber vines, zucchini and sunflowers. I enjoy taking my time to get everything cleaned up. It does seem surreal to me, however, seeing everything gone from the garden! Poof! everything is gone. Anyway, we don’t till anything, so for us, preparing the garden beds is a matter of layering. We have some fresh compost which just came down from its high temperature, and it will be added on top of our current beds, mixed with ripped up cardboard. The cardboard will help to retain moisture. We’ll cover that with straw, soak the bed with duck poop water, then water it and leave it till spring. High desert gardening can be very rewarding, especially when you see how well things grow if you just cover the ground with a little mulch.


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