by: Edgar Romero Gonzalez, City Sprouts South Manager + Assistant Educator, City Sprouts
The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are changing, and you’ve harvested every delicious item from your garden. You say to yourself, “It was a great season, lots of hard work, and now it's time to chill out!”. For the most part, I would agree with you! However, the reality is that there is one last step to take that will make next year even better than this year. It's also an important part for the health of your garden. Yup, you guessed it! It's time to prepare your garden for the winter.
Here are just a few benefits from preparing your garden for the winter:
It allows for you to take a break, grab your favorite drink, and ponder upon any observations you may have made during the growing season:
What did you grow that was successful, could have done better, or failed?
Did you notice any areas in your garden where the soil was constantly/excessively dry or wet?
Was there a certain spot in your garden where nothing grew successfully, no matter what you planted?
It allows your garden to rest and recharge so it can be ready for the next season:
Beneficial microbes in the soil can refortify themselves faster because they’re not being disturbed or damaged by constant tilling, digging, etc.
By covering your soil with mulch, hay, or even a cover crop, you can better control weeds in the spring and further protect the beneficial microorganisms mentioned above.
You can also add compost or other natural fertilizer now and not have to worry about disturbing your soil once again in the spring. Its a great method to minimize soil disturbance!
Here are a few simple steps to take to help you prepare your garden for the winter:
Garden Cleanup - Take advantage of the nice weather that remains and thoroughly clean up your garden and/or raised beds of any dead or decaying plants. This is especially important to prevent any harmful bacteria or mold from developing. As a bonus, you can take all your garden waste and start a compost pile or add to it, if you already have one. One word of caution though! Do not put any plant material that may have been infected with a virus or disease into your compost
Compost - As mentioned before, you can add compost now and mix it into your soil. True, you’re disturbing the soil, but your soil will have several months to rest and recover. Trust me, your soil and plants will LOVE you for this.
Mulch - As mentioned before, you want to protect the beneficial microbes in your soil. These little garden helpers are what help your plants stay healthy, efficiently deliver nutrients to plant roots, keep pests and disease in check, and further help to regenerate your soil. So what is mulch anyway? Well it can be any protective covering (ex. woodchips, cardboard, cover crop) that is spread over your soil. It will greatly reduce moisture evaporation , help maintain a consistent soil temperature, prevent erosion caused by the elements. control weeds, and further enrich the soil as it breaks down.
As you can see, preparing your garden for the winter is fairly simple. You’ll see the benefits next season when you deal with less weeds, your plants thrive, and your harvest gets bigger!
Interested in learning more about caring for your garden in the winter?
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