Winterizing the kitchen garden gives both you and the soil that produced many abundant plants a break. Giving your garden soil a much needed rest is important. Plants naturally use the minerals and nutrients in the soil, so your garden needs time to replenish. This is similar to our need for nourishing food and a good night’s sleep to replenish!
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Why Winterize the garden?
Over the years, I’ve tried different methods of winterizing our garden. These ranged from doing absolutely nothing, to covering the garden area with different materials.
When we had a traditional row garden, I used tarps to keep the weeds down and the ground (slightly) warmer. Now that we use raised beds almost exclusively, I’ve been mulching the beds in the winter. It’s simple and effective.
Another method of winterizing is to use a cover crop. This can give you something to harvest here and there all winter and help replenish the soil. Check out my article on How to Garden all Winter for the details on cover crops.
3 Easy Steps to Winterize the Garden
- Clean out any leftover (i.e. dead) plants and any debris that won’t break down. You can always opt to cut plants off at the base, leaving the root systems in place to help feed organisms living in the soil.
- Use a garden rake to even out and break up the top layer of soil. (I prefer a bow rake, since its strong rake head breaks up dirt and grabs left behind roots.)
- Optional: Add a layer of compost to feed the soil over the winter months. (Don’t know how to compost? Check out How to Start Composting and How to Direct Compost!)
- Spread a thick layer of mulch over the top of your soil. Voila!
Choosing Mulch Materials
Several winters ago I mulched two beds in pine bark mulch and two beds in cedar mulch. The beds mulched with pine turned out great, while those mulched with cedar eventually grew weeds and had some bugs. It could have simply been that specific batch of mulch, but I’ll be shying away from cedar mulch in the future.
Some folks use hay or straw, which can be a good option if you have it available. I’ve even used pine straw and fallen leaves some years and the results have been great!
Clearing the beds in spring
In the spring, I simply rake away the mulch layer (or mix it in if it was thin layer of leaves) and begin mixing in my compost. I’ll do this a few weeks before planting. You can reserve the mulch for using around your plants in the garden. This is a great way to keep moisture in the soil and cut down on weeding.
For now sit back and enjoy the late fall and winter months, and give your soil the much needed rest it deserves. You can even start planning out your spring garden. You know what they say about the early worm!
I’d love to know how you winterize your garden and if another technique has worked for you! Have a great week and happy gardening!
Click the image below for the full video of how to winterize garden beds!