The harvest is in. The canning is done. The first frost either close by or behind us.
It’s time to prepare the garden for spring or to plant a winter garden, depending on your zone. Take note of what was successful this year - and what wasn’t - and plan accordingly for your next growing season. Whether it’s rotating your garden to a new area, expanding or adding beds, or just enriching the soil, putting in some elbow grease now will make spring planting a breeze.
Now is a perfect time to test your soil to see if it is too acidic or too alkaline. Soil that is too acidic is a perfect environment for weeds and disease. There are test kits available at most hardware stores, through your local extension agent or you can also test it yourself using vinegar and baking soda: https://preparednessmama.com/testing-your-soil-ph-without-a-kit/ . Your local extension office can direct you where to send your soil to be tested for more than acidity. These more comprehensive tests will tell you give you a more in-depth analysis of what your soil may be lacking.
Hopefully, the weeds have not gone to seed yet, but, if so, carefully pull them up by the roots. Do not add these to your compost as they may find a happy place to grow again. Just add them to your burn pile or give them to your chickens as a treat! You may also consider a cover crop such as fetch or clover to keep weed pressure down and rebuild soil.
First, throw away any diseased plants in the same manner as weeds. For healthy plants, cut the stems of the as close to the ground as possible. Leave the roots to decompose, adding nutrients back into the soil. Add the old plants to your compost.
Add 1” to 2” of compost to your garden bed. This is also a good opportunity to add fresh manure (in moderation) since it will have all winter to decompose.
If desired, you can add landscaping fabric. It will reduce weed growth and add heat to aid in decomposition of the mulch. Just remove it in the spring when you are ready to plant.
Cover prepared beds with a thick layer of mulch of your choice. You can use hay, straw, leaves, dried grass clippings, or wood chips. Depending on what you choose to use will determine how thick to apply it. For finer mulches like hay, straw or grass clippings, you will need to apply a thicker layer. (Note: If using grass clippings, it’s very important that clippings are completely dry before application.) Denser mulches like wood chips or bark break down more slowly, so you won’t need as much. Don’t skimp on this step! The mulch layer is crucial to moisture retention as well as protecting your precious top soil from blowing or washing away.
If you are so inclined, there are zones in which you can plant winter hardy vegetables like cabbage or turnips. Fall is also the perfect time to plant garlic for a summer harvest.
There are two camps of thought on soil tilling; to till or not to till the soil. Which camp are you in? What has worked for you over the winter and what hasn’t?
We are here to learn from one another so please share your thoughts with us. Plus, we are spread across the USA in multiple planting zones. Let us know how you prepare for winter in your home town. We love to hear from our members!
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