When winter rolls around, it can be easy to let the snow take over your vegetables and for you to not do anything about your garden.
If possible, you should avoid letting this happen and do a few things to prepare your garden before winter comes around.
The tips for preparing your garden for winter include the following: harvest all the vegetables from your garden, clean up the garden, check the pH level of the soil in your garden, add compost, turn off the watering system, and add a covering crop.
Why winterize your vegetable garden
As people always say, a little preparation ahead of time will keep you from extra work in the future.
Preparing your vegetable garden for the future gives you the same benefit.
If you take care of your vegetable garden now, the amount of work you will have to do later is much less.
So, if you take a few simple steps now, you can rest a little after winter is gone and spring is here.
Harvest all of your garden
When it gets near the end of fall, it can be easy to just let the last of your vegetables go to waste.
Some are even tempted to let the best of their vegetables die from the frost, hoping that they will decompose in the garden and make the soil richer for the next year.
But this should be avoided if possible.
If one of your vegetable plants is rotted, has a disease, or is harboring a bug infestation, then leaving your plant there will make the disease or bug infestation worse.
So instead of letting your vegetables die, harvest the rest of what is left.
Then, once you have harvested the vegetables, pull up and get rid of the plants if they will not grow back next year.
If the plant has a disease or bugs, either throw it away or burn it.
You do not want those problems to be passed along into your garden soil or other plants.
If your plants do not have any of these problems, then throw them into your compost pile to be used in the years to come.
Clean up the garden
After you have taken care of your vegetable plants by composting or burning them, you will then want to clean up the rest of the vegetable garden.
This includes getting rid of any remaining weeds or other debris in the garden.
Getting rid of the weeds gets you a head start on the coming growing season.
Getting rid of any debris also helps to avoid any further weeds or other items that might make it hard for your vegetables to grow the way you want them to.
So get on your hands and knees and start pulling those weeds out of the ground.
Then pull out a garden hoe and get rid of any leaves or other debris.
Check the pH level of your garden
The pH level is very important to how well the vegetables in your garden are going to grow.
A pH kit or electronic tester can be found at any plant nursery or online shop. Most kits are inexpensive and accurate enough to guide your pH adjustments. Most vegetables like a slightly acidic soil pH. The ideal range is between 6.3 and 6.9 (on a scale from 1 to 14). If your soil has a pH below this range, add lime to your beds this fall (available at plant nurseries and hardware stores). If the soil is too alkaline (above 7.5), consider adding elemental sulfur to your beds to acidify the soil. Both of these amendments are organic. Adding them in the fall allows them to work their magic before the next big planting season.5 ways to winterize your vegetable garden | The Seattle Times
You can do a lot for your vegetable garden just by making sure the pH level is in a good range, as mentioned above.
Adding some compost to the top of your vegetable garden can also do quite a bit to protect the garden during the winter and prepare it for the next gardening season.
The compost helps to keep nutrients within the soil instead of allowing them to leech out due to the weather or other factors.
It also provides the garden area with more nutrients that it might have lost over the previous year.
So make sure to take some time to put some compost on top of your garden, at least 2 inches.
Also, make sure that your compost is weed seed free.
If you prepare for your own compost, keep weed seeds out of it, as you do not want to cause more trouble for yourself come spring if your compost has weed seeds in it.
Some gardeners will also place hay on top of their compost to help with the slowing down of the leeching of the nutrients in the soil.
Turn off the watering system
There are a few reasons previous to the winter that you should turn off your watering system.
The first being you do not want to ruin your watering system.
It is not so much of an issue when you get to the late fall, but once the frost is coming, you could ruin or destroy your watering system.
Turn off your watering system and open up the water spouts to let all the water out.
Drain out your hoses and store them away for the winter.
Turn off any automated sprinkler systems.
This will help to save the sprinkler system when the winter time comes.
Second, when you stop watering your garden on a regular basis, this can put many plants into a “hibernation state”, meaning that they stop growing for the winter.
And if you have perennial plants in your garden, this could help towards not having to replant these vegetables every year.
Some perennial vegetables include asparagus, rhubarb, onions, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, radicchio, and sorrel.
Add a covering crop
The last thing you should do is plant a covering crop over your vegetable garden.
The covering crop will give you protection over your vegetable garden.
Plant the covering crop in the fall and then by the spring it will be ready to till into the soil.
The cover crop can protect your vegetable garden from corrosion, diseases, and pests.
And then when you till it into the soil come spring, it will give the soil back some of the nutrients it needs to help your vegetables grow the next year.
By the time we get to the end of the fall, it can be so easy to forget the vegetable garden and just let all the crops die off.
But if we take a little bit of care beforehand it becomes winter, we can save ourselves quite a bit of time in the future.
So make sure to harvest all the vegetables, clean up the garden for leaves and other debris, check the pH level of the soil in your garden and make the appropriate adjustments, add compost to the garden, turn off your watering system, and add a covering crop.