Expert gardeners know that one of the secrets to a nice garden or landscape is year-round care. Preparing your garden for winter will make a big difference in the spring. Here is a look at the fall garden preparation steps you should be taking now before the winter months arrive.
Parting Is a Sweet Sorrow
No one wants to say goodbye to plants from the current season. However, your garden will probably have an assortment of plants that have reached the end of their life cycle. Appreciate the beauty they provided, and then get rid of them. This is especially true for any plants that have started to rot.
Here's the good news: Many of your older plants can be added back to the soil in compost form to provide organic matter. Just make sure that you are not using any diseased plants. This is a wonderful way to embrace sustainability in your garden and prepare garden soil for winter.
The Dreaded Clean-Up Process
Once the old plants have been removed, you will need to begin winterizing your garden with a good cleaning. This is the part where you will remove invasive weeds and plants.
No matter how well you care for your plants, chances are there will be a fair number of invasive species. Many gardeners make the mistake of thinking that the cold weather will take care of these plants, stopping their growth cycle and making them easier to remove in the spring. This is the wrong approach. Left unattended, the invasive growth will sprout anew in the spring and magnify the problem.
A Word About Soil and Vegetable Gardens
This is a good place to shift gears and talk about your vegetable garden. When it comes to preparing a vegetable garden for winter, the key is to focus on the soil. You may even want to consider a soil test if you plant vegetables in the same area year after year.
A soil test will reveal pH levels as well as levels of other compounds such as potassium. You can then use the results of a soil test to plan your winter fertilizing. Lime is the best material for making adjustments to the pH level of your garden's soil.
Soil Preparation for Regular and Raised Gardens
Preparing raised beds for winter means readying the soil with amendments. The same is true for your regular garden. Some people wait until the final months of winter to take this step. Be proactive and do it now.
Amendments are things like compost, bone meal and kelp that you add to the soil to replace nutrients and organic matter. If you can only do one thing to prepare, this is the job to choose. Preparing plants for winter means making sure they will have nutrient-rich soil in the spring.
To Cover or Not to Cover?
There is a debate among home gardeners about whether raised beds and gardens should be covered in the winter. There is one primary advantage to covering your garden: You will prevent the amendments that you have added from being washed away.
Some areas are more prone to rain in the winter than others. Let this be your guide when deciding whether to cover. Just remember to remove the covering early enough to allow the soil to begin warming before planting time.
Take Care of Your Perennials
Most home gardens include a nice mix of plants. The perennials in your garden are important elements. They provide your foundation, a base around which you can design your landscaping.
Caring for perennials involves pruning plants and removing dead matter. You should also pay attention to these plants for any sign of disease. The presence of disease doesn't always mean that you need to remove the whole plant. Try to excise the diseased parts.
Prepare the plants as recommended for the winter with wrapping or other measures. Some perennials may also need to be placed inside in the event of a hard freeze.
Don't Forget Tools and Hoses
Once your garden is prepared for winter, you will have some free time on your hands. What are you going to do with yourself all winter while your garden sleeps? Maintain your equipment, of course!
The first thing you will want to do is assemble all of your hoses. Check for leaks or cracks, and also completely drain them of water before you put them away. This is a great time to invest in any new hoses you may need for the next season. There are often off-season deals and pricing that you can take advantage of.
The same goes for all of your garden tools. You should check hoes, shovels and cultivators for rust and loose parts. Give them a good cleaning and make sure that they are properly stored for the winter.
Every bit of work that you have done to prepare for next season will make your spring job easier. It will also help you maintain a sense of connection to your garden throughout the winter months.
For more information on garden protection, read the following articles:
Guide to Gardening During a Texas Winter
How to Protect Your Garden Beds