Preparing Your Vegetable Garden for Winter


| 10/14/2011 10:17:22 AM


Tags: winter garden, compost, root cellar, autumn planting, Mary Lou Shaw,

Every gardener probably has a different version of the “best” way to prepare a backyard garden forthe winter. Because our Ohio garden is large, and each year is different in climate and crops, I findthat our garden goes into each winter with a little different variation of preparedness. Winter preparations occur over several weeks, but perhaps the following suggestions will give you ideas that you can try now and in the years ahead.  

One thing that most gardeners will agree upon is that it’s worth the effort to clean out all the old annual plants. Some of the vines and climbing plants will die on their own and can be hauled to the compost by now. Others like tomatoes will wait for a hard frost to die. I’m in no rush to clean out crops if I can still get some green tomatoes or a sweet pepper or two. However, when the season is over, cleaning out the dead plants prevents the build-up of disease and harmful insects. The heat of composting will kill them.  

The dead plants and weeds that you clean out from your garden in the autumn become valuable additions to your compost. Don’t worry about knocking all the soil off the roots. Soil contains microbes that will boost the decomposition of your compost. The compost recipe is “two-parts brown and one-part green. Dried leaves, pine needles can be added to the dead plants to provide the “brown.” Kitchen waste, grass and still-green plants will help provide the “green” component of your compost recipe.  

If you don’t have room for a compost pile outside your garden area, consider digging trenches in your garden where you can bury this debris along with the other compost ingredients. After one trench is filled and one area of your garden cleaned out, dig another trench for the next area. This will compost and enrich your soil for the next year.  

There are lots more options for your garden before you say good-bye to it until next spring. For one thing, if you plan ahead, your garden can continue to provide food through much of the winter. Kale and collards can be planted in the heat of ABuckwheat and compost rows with straw pathsugust and then ignored until cold-sensitive plants have died. Carrots can be planted about late August or September and then covered with straw and not harvested until frost has sweetened them. 

The garden is also a good place to create a “root cellar” of sorts. Plants don’t have to be deep in the soil to be protected from the cold. If you have cabbage in the garden that you would like to save for the winter months, dig it up now with the roots attached. Next, dig a hole to put it in, head-first, with the root sticking out to mark the spot. (You might also want to mark the spot with a stake in case you have high snow). When you dig it up this winter, you can remove only the outside leaves and have a perfect cabbage. Potatoes and carrots can also be dug now and preserved with a mound of straw and dirt above them.  




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