Winterizing The Garden | Photo of a bird sitting on a branch in the snow

How To Winterize The Garden: End Of Season Garden Care

Fall is upon us, the gardening season is over and it’s time to winterize the garden. Fall is probably my favorite season, but I’m always sad when this part of the season rolls around and it’s time to do the end of season garden care, but a full pantry full of canned goodies from the garden always makes it a little easier. 

Gardening is a partnership between you and the ground your cultivating, so it’s really important to take care of your garden after it’s worked so hard to take care of you.

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How Do You Winterize The Garden?

Getting the garden ready for winter with the end of season garden care will make your spring garden so much easier! Think of it as preparing for spring! The promise of a new season of beauty, and new life after the harshness of winter. Wondering what to do you do in the garden for winter?

When Should I Winterize The Garden?

Exactly when you tackle the end-of-season task of preparing your garden for winter will depend on where you live and your growing zone. Aim to tackle winterizing the garden after the first hard frost has killed off your plants for the year. 

How Do I Prepare My Garden For Winter?

The first step in how to winterize the garden is cleanup:

  • Clean up any dead branches and remove dead plants and burn or compost them. This is especially important if you have had trouble with squash bugs or other insects.
  • Pull any invasive weeds that have taken over your garden beds. Throw them away or burn them.
  •  Remove and store any trellises, arbors, cages, or stakes.
  • If you are using temporary fencing to protect your plants from deer, you can remove it and store over the winter so no little critters get stuck in it. Or leave it up all winter just be mindful to check it every once ina while.

Should I Fertilize My Garden Before Winter?

Yes! One hundred percent yes, fertilizing your soil before winter gives your amendments time to work in the soil so it’s ready for growing when you start your spring garden. Nitrogen will feed your plants next season and potassium and phosphorus will help your plants grow strong root systems. We spread a two-inch layer of composted manure over our garden beds every year while we are winterizing the garden. 

Should I Till My Garden In The Fall?

If you till your soil then tilling in the fall can help to open your soil and allow oxygen to reach deeper layers in your soil. However, you have no-dig beds or raised beds this is in no way necessary to winterize the garden.

What To Do To Winterize The Garden

Once you’ve cleaned up your garden it’s time for the next step in how to winterize the garden,

  • Do a soil test and add any amendments it suggests.
  • Spread several inches of composted manure to the top of your garden. You can either work it in or leave it on the top of the soil.
  • Spread a thick layer of mulched leaves over your soil, this will add nutrients to your soil as it breaks down and keeps your topsoil from washing away.
  • Take the time to divide any perennials.
  • Divide and replant your bulbs 
  • Mulch your flowerbeds
  • Put your roses to bed. If you live in a place that gets very cold try wrapping your rose bushes in burlap to protect them from the cold winter.

Should Garden Beds Be Covered In Winter?

It’s not a horrible idea to cover your garden beds for the winter to keep all of that precious soil in place. Using a sheet of plastic is a great way to winterize the garden beds. You can also thickly mulch over your garden beds to help protect them over the winter. 

Winterizing Garden End Of Season Tasks

A great thing to do while you are working on the end of season garden care is working on the upkeep of your arbors and fences. Fix any damage, add a fresh coat of paint or stain, etc. This is one less thing you will have to worry about when the spring garden season rolls in.

Another great task to add to your ‘what to do in winter for the garden’ list is to update your garden journal if you don’t have one we have a wonderful garden journal in our shop

  • take a moment and update your plant notes
  • write down what you loved growing
  • make note of what didn’t do well
  • write down some things you’d love to grow next year

How To Prepare Raised Beds For Winter

Most of our gardening is done in raised beds, so we have quite a lot of work when it’s time to winterize the garden and getting the end of season garden care finished. How do you get a raised bed garden ready for winter?

  • Clean up any dead plants and burn, trash, or compost them.
  • Remove weeds from the beds
  • Remove any temporary support systems like arbors and cages.
  • Test the soil and add amendments.
  • Add a layer of compost and composted manure to the top of your soil
  • Add a thick layer of mulched leaves to your beds.
  • Consider growing a winter cover crop.

Gardening In Winter: How To Prevent Garden Plants From Freezing

Here in Tennessee, we tend to get our first frost and then the temperature pops back up and it’s warm again so to prevent frost damage, and be able to continue growing (at least until it freezes) we do a couple of things:

When a frost is predicted just before dusk we cover our plants. A couple of ways we do this are with sheets, pillow slips, bolts of fabric, and even plastic. We drape it over our plants at dusk to prevent frost damage when the temperature drops to those dreaded lows and then remove them in the morning when the sun can warm them.

 

If your plants are very intolerant to the cold you can leave gallon jugs of water out in the sun during the day and then place them in your beds beneath the blankets to help keep them warm.

Another great method for preventing frost damage is to run strands of Christmas lights between your plants, then cover with a sheet or piece of plastic for the night. The lights will help to keep your plants a little warmer and get them through the frost.

Winterize The Garden: Cover Crops And Green Manures

Another great way to winterizing the garden is by planting cover crops, cover crops provide tons of nutrients back into your soil when you turn them into your soil before planting your spring garden.

Some great winter cover crops to plant in your garden are:

  • vetch
  • clover
  • beans
  • annual ryegrass
  • oats
  • rapeseed
  • winter wheat
  • winter rye
  • and buckwheat

Winterizing The Garden For Spring

Winterizing the garden now will give you a head start when spring rolls around and it’s time to get your plants in the ground. It’s best to do this before your first freeze, so it isn’t absolutely miserable to be outside, and the ground isn’t frozen. But even if it has gotten cold you can still do some of these!

What’s your best tip for how to winterize the garden? Tell us in the comment!


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