Your garden has worked hard all summer long.
Hopefully you have reaped the benefits of your garden and filled your shelves and freezer with plenty of food to munch throughout the winter.
Today I want to share How to Winterize Your Vegetable Garden.
Like a small child who has run and played all day, your garden needs cleaned and tucked in for a winter’s sleep. This “cleaning” and “tucking” will help remove bugs and pathogens from the soil as well as replenishing its nutrients for a bountiful crop the next year.
Even if you have a small garden space, the proper treatment of a small garden will create a better yield than a large one that is mainly neglected.
How to Winterize the Vegetable Garden
Remove plants and weeds from your garden. If you have a compost pile, toss plants that are disease and bug free onto it along with any weeds that have not gone to seed.
Burn any plants that are diseased or buggy. If you live in town and cannot burn, bag them and place them out for trash pickup. Carefully gather weeds that have gone to seed and burn or bag them as well.
We use heirloom seeds for several things so we don’t want any volunteer plants the next year. For this reason, our heirloom plants are not tossed into the compost but rather burned as well.
How much plant residue you remove is up to you, but getting out the weeds, diseased plants and woody stalks are a must.
If you have a tiller, use it to deeply work the ground and turn under the remaining plant residue. Some years my husband will spade the garden which works it deeper than a tiller can reach. Use a garden rake to remove visible root stalks from plants and weeds.
Proper preparation of the ground now will get you in the garden that much sooner come next spring. Proper tilling loosens the soil and allows it to drain and dry, making it ready for planting!
Consider a Soil Test
Many garden centers offer soil test kits that enable you to decide the pH of your soil, and they can then offer suggestions on improving the pH for ideal growth. This isn’t necessary every fall, but if you have a growing season where your plants seem “off,” an unbalanced pH could be the culprit.
Ask your local garden center for a pH test kit. Lowe’s is a national center that commonly carries them.
An NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) test is also helpful. There is a great one found on Amazon that allows you to test your soil and find which nutrients you need to feed your garden with in the next step.
Feed Your Garden
There are two main ways to feed your garden each fall. Composting and cover crops. There are different benefits to each. Feeding your garden is important if you want it to feed you. Typically this is the most expensive part of gardening, but considering how much we save each year by growing our own foods and by reusing food scraps whenever possible, this cost is minimal.
Let’s look at the benefits of composting first. Have your soil “seed ready” before applying compost. Then spread on compost, manure, straw or other organic material. Make sure to have a minimum of 4″ up to 6″ of compost spread over the entire garden. Use this beginner’s tutorial for composting if you’re new to the idea
During the winter months, the organic matter will decompose and feed your garden. In the spring, rake the compost back in rows and plant your seeds and seedlings. As the seeds sprout, slowly begin pulling the compost back beside the seedlings.
Not only will this continue feeding your plants during the next growing season, it is also a great way to control weeds.
Planting a cover crop is also highly beneficial. Cover crops are planted 30 days before the first frost, and turned under in the spring just after flowering.
Also called green manure, cover crops restore fertility and humus to the soil as well as controlling erosion from winter rains. Cover crops are grown thickly, thus choking out most of the weeds that try to pop up in the spring.
Your local garden center is most likely to know what cover crop will grow best in your area. We’ve planted buckwheat and rye in the past. Both of them died during the winter, but still added lots of organic material to the soil.
A common blend is annual rye and hairy vetch.
How to winterize your vegetable garden is summed up in 3 easy steps:
*soil testing is good but optional
This should take no more than a weekend to accomplish and the rewards next year will be even greater!
What steps do you take to winterize the vegetable garden?
This post was written by Kendra at aProverbs31Wife.com.