Winter is finally here in Utah and I was fortunate to be picking tomatoes right up to Thanksgiving! However, a blanket of snow doesn’t stop a keen gardener; there are plenty of jobs you can do in the garden and around the homestead to get your plot ready for the next growing season. Read on to find out my main 10 tasks for winter.
1. Keep Composting
Composting slows down as the temperature plummets in winter, however it doesn’t mean that you should stop adding kitchen scraps to the heap. We’re very keen composters and are expanding the large compost bin to allow for a second heap to get started in winter which will be finished and ready to spread on the garden next fall.
I also make sure that my worm farm is topped up with kitchen scraps throughout winter and we keep using Bokashi composting too. The Bokashi waste gets added to the compost heap throughout the year and helps to speed things up.
If you live in a more temperate area you can start making new beds for your vegetable garden now. Raised beds are easy to make and can be made relatively inexpensively if you have plenty of homemade compost. If you don’t have any compost, you can usually pick it up quite cheap from the city landfill. If you must buy the compost in bags, you can use other organic material or mulches to fill the bed to break down over winter before spring to make it cheaper.
Winter can be a real struggle for birds to find food and sources of water. You can help your local bird population be hanging feeders around your garden, leaving some plants with berries on them and providing a bird bath for them to drink from.
We make feeders with a bunt cake tin, seeds, fruit and lard or vegetable shortening as well as hanging apples up in our trees. We also create a small log pile with leaves and a rock pile to provide shelter for overwintering insects like mason bees.
Winter is when pruning of the apple and pear orchard would take place, removing the damaged and diseased wood and any areas which were crossing over and rubbing whilst the trees were dormant. Many bare root trees can also be planted at this time of year.
Winter is a tempting time of year when those seed catalogues come in the mail. Take stock of what you already have and proper storage can help keep seeds viable for longer periods.
The garden shed often becomes disorganized during the growing season and a fine winter’s day is an ideal time to organize the space, build hangers and organizers for the tools. Plant pots, seed trays and containers should all be emptied and thoroughly washed with hot soapy water to reduce pests and diseases.
Your garden tools should be properly maintained; sharpen cutting blades on pruning shears, secateurs and axes using a sharpening stone, clean dirt off spades, shovels and forks with hot soapy water then rinse and oil the metal parts to reduce rust. Wooden handles should also be oiled to reduce cracking and splitting of the wood
Frost fleece can be put over cold hard vegetables before the temperature drops too far to help keep those plants happy in winter. Frost fleece can be helpful for Brussels Sprouts, kale, winter cabbage and leeks if you live in milder climates.
Plenty of organic mulch on the vegetable beds like leaves, pine needles, straw and compost can help keep some hardy plants from freezing, allowing you to harvest in winter.
Winter is a great time to propagate plants by hardwood cuttings. Some plants in the edible garden which do well with hardwood cuttings include elderberry and currants. Roses, buddleia (butterfly bush) and other shrubs also propagate by these types of cuttings.
Extend your harvest and growing season by building a cold frame to protect plants from the harsh frosts. Many cold frames can be made out of recycled glass doors and windows on bricks or straw bales.
Emma Raven has been gardening, cooking, canning and home brewing for most of her life. Formulation scientist, blogger, home brewer and avid gardener. Born in a village on the northern east coast of England, she now calls the Wasatch Mountains of Utah home. Find Emma at Misfit Gardening, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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