Monday, October 24, 2022

How to Prepare a Vegetable Garden for Winter

Learn how to prepare a vegetable garden for winter.   This fall garden checklist will help you prepare your plot for the next year to maximize your growing season to preserve food for the year.

Vegetable Garden Fall Cleanup

When the garden is done producing and we are done canning and freeze drying for the year, we start on our all garden cleanup checklist.

Now's the time to test the soil and add nutrients back into the soil to get ready for next year.&bsp; Vegetable garden fall cleanup should only take a day, but sometimes it takes us two weekends because we can't devote that much time in one day to get it all done.

For more gardening advice, check out these posts:

What Should I Do With My Garden In The Fall?

Fall typically means most of the plants you will be harvesting that year have been harvested, and that the gardening season is winding down. However, this does not mean you should simply let your garden go until planting time.


Rather, fall is the perfect time to get a jump on the next cycle, by planning next year's crops and cleaning your garden in preparation. Further, fall is when you should be preparing your garden for the wintertime as well, so you will have an easier time during the next planting season. 


Learning how to prepare a vegetable garden for winter heavily involves learning how to maximize your fall vegetable garden cleanup.

When Should I Clean My Garden In The Fall?

Typically speaking, fall garden cleanup should begin after the first major frost of the year. However, you should clean up diseased or dying plants whenever you can so as to avoid disease. 


Further, it is important to only remove what plants might potentially invite pests or diseases. As a rule of thumb for those living in regions without frost, you can start to clean up after you notice annual plants starting to die. 


What To Do Before Cleaning Your Garden

Before embarking on your vegetable garden fall cleanup, there are a few things that you should do. These tips will help you to maximize productivity during your fall garden cleanup as you get it ready for its next use. 


Test Your Soil

Many recommend getting your soil test about once every three years. This will allow you to keep up on your soil needs. Fall is the best time to do this as you can start introducing important nutrients right away and you will have all of the winter for them to work into the garden. 

When you test your soil, you'll want to test the pH so you know what plants to plant where.  For example, blueberries like a more acidic soil.  Most plants like a neutral soil.  

To test the nutrients, you can use a kit or send a soil sample to a lab.  We get a lab analysis done about every three years.  In the other years, we use a home test kit for soil.  

Contact your state university's extension office in regards to soil testing.  If they don't do it, they should be able to point you in the right direction.


Make A Plan/Outline

As the harvesting season winds down, it can be tempting to try and put everything away so that you can be done for a few months. However, it is important to reflect and make note of what went well and what did not. 


For instance, making a diagram of your garden can help you figure out the best place to plant crops next time around. Further, it will help you to remember where everything went, so planning will be much easier. 


You should also write down what difficulties you had so you can plan ahead for them during the next gardening season. Being organized and planning ahead are perhaps some of the best ways to make the most of your garden.

I have a garden planner printable available in my Etsy shop.  I use it not only to plan my garden, but also to keep track of what I planted where and how they did in that spot.  

Then you can make adjustments to improve your yield each year.  


How To Clean Up Garden For Winter

Cleaning up your garden through a fall garden cleanup is an essential part of maintaining your garden and ensuring that it thrives. Following is a simple guide to help you clean up your garden.


Remove Debris

This includes removing any dead or dying plants. Plants can be added to the compost, but diseased plants shouldn’t be. Instead, they should be put directly into the trash so you don't spread the germs. 


You should also remove anything that will attract disease or pests. Some plants can be chopped off at the root so that the root can continue to provide nutrients for the garden. 

For instance, beans and peas will provide nitrogen for your garden if they are cut off at the root and left in. 


Weed (One Last Time)

Many gardeners might be a bit surprised to learn that weeding should be done even after the crops are all harvested. However, it is important to keep in mind that even one weed has the potential to create hundreds or thousands of seeds that will grow in the next year.


If your soil is really dry, water it a little bit before you go out to weed to make things easier. Some bigger weeds will leave behind large holes in the garden. You can use these holes to plant bulbs that will flower in the springtime.


Make Use Of Leaves

Oftentimes, fall leaves can be seen as a major nuisance. What if I told you, however, that there are lots of great uses for leaves in and for your garden. Many gardeners fill up their compost bins with leaves, or even store them in garbage bags for use later on. 


When composting with leaves, many recommend using them as a buffer layer between green material, as that will help your compost a lot.


You can also shred your leaves and use them as a mulch layer substitute over the surface of your garden's soil. This will help to suppress weeds and retain the garden's moisture. 

Further, the leaves will release nutrients over time that are really beneficial for your garden.


You can even store leaves somewhere secure, and over time they will break down into a rich humus. This humus can be mixed in with your soil to provide food for soil organisms, improve structure, and even improve the soil's ability to hold moisture. 


Plant Garlic

The fall time is the best time to plant garlic in your garden. Planting garlic can be beneficial for your garden's soil, and many gardeners plant it in between seasons. Most importantly, though, it needs to be cold in order to produce larger yields of garlic.


I recommend planting garlic before the ground freezes, but after the temperature starts to drop. It is important to plant it at the right time so as to get the most out of it and improve its chances of survival. 


Plan New Garden Beds & Segments

If you are thinking of expanding your garden, then doing it in the fall can be a good idea. To plan for your next garden area, simply mow the area on the lowest setting of your mower. 

Then, cover it with newspaper. If you are planning on building any structures around it, you can also do that at the same time. 


This way, when you go to till and prepare the soil during the next year, the garden will already be laid out and a lot easier to work with.


Planting A Cover Crop

You can plant a cover crop in your garden, which will provide nutrients and a home for soil microorganisms. Plus, cover crops help to suppress weeds and even return some of the organic material and nutrients that your soil expends back to it. 


Many gardeners recommend planting winter wheat or cereal rye, as both will produce a little during the first season, and then regrow in the spring.


It is important to turn the top growth over during the spring season, before it hits six inches tall. That way, it won’t get too difficult to manage and become a nuisance in your garden. 


There are all sorts of cover crops that you can plant, so it is important to research ahead and choose one that aligns with your gardening goals, as well as the benefits and yield of each type of cover crop. 


 Use this fall garden cleaning checklist to add to your garden planner and get your garden at peak performance for a better crop yield next year.

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