Preparing the Garden for Winter


Fall is one of my favorite times of year. The Sugar and Red Maples are in their full glory, painting the hillsides bright shades of yellows and reds. The hot days of summer are gone and It’s time to get the garden ready for winter. Our more importantly having it ready to go for next spring’s crops.

Soil Test: Now is a good time to have a soil test done to determine if your soil will benefit from amendments.  A soil test will tell you the pH, acidity or. alkalinity of your soil, level of organic matter and basic nutrient levels. The most important is your pH. If you pH is not between 6-7 you will need to adjust accordingly. Know is the perfect time because it takes months for the pH to adjust itself.

Cleaning: Pull up old vines and vegetable plants.  Insect pests that feed on these plants during summer and fall often lay eggs on the old plants.  If the vines are left on the soil surface, insect eggs will survive the winter and hatch in the spring. The same is true for fungus. If your squash had powdery mildew and you leave the vines all winter you are guaranteeing you will have it again next year. Any diseased plant material should be burned and not added to the compost pile since most home compost piles don’t get hot enough to kill these pathogens.

Weeding: There are more reasons than aesthetics to get rid of weeds in your garden.Lambsquarters, for example can bear up to 72,500 seeds per plant.  If even 50% of the seedlings germinated next spring, you'd have 36,250 plants to pull or otherwise get rid of. It’s much easier to reduce keep your population now then to be inundated to spring.

Planting: October is garlic planting time for us. Plant bulbs 6-inches apart and 4-inches deep, add a light layer of mulch at planting time, and follow with a substantial mulch layer after the ground freezes and the plants are dormant. Make sure to plant your garlic in a new spot in the garden every year.

Topdressing:The vast majority of gardens can benefit from the addition of organic matter in the fall. Good things to use are shredded leaves, compost or aged manure.

Finally it’s time to reflect on your year and review your triumphs and failures.

What did you have too much of, what did you have too little of , what did or didn’t grow well. Keeping a garden journal will help you be a better gardener from year to year.