What’s Happening in the Garden: Winterizing
Our warm season is now over, which means it’s time to put our garden to bed for the winter. At this point, we could continue growing cold season crops (broccoli, spinach, kale, etc) with the help of row covers or cold frames, but I’ve decided not to grow any this season. So here are the steps I follow to winterize our garden:
Pick all the remaining veggies. There’s a handful of greenbeans and a dozen green tomatoes left on our vines, and there’s not enough daylight to ripen them before the frost sets in, so I’ve picked them and brought them inside. I’ll put them on our windowsill — there’s a good chance they’ll ripen just fine with direct sun and our warm indoor temps.
Tomatoes will ripen on your windwsill — it just takes a little patience.
Pull out all remaining plants and remove any weeds. If you have a compost pile, it’s great to throw the plants (not the weeds!) into the pile — just check to make sure they’re not diseased.
These cucumber vines have run their course, and now it’s time to say goodbye.
Till the soil. I give the soil a gentle turn to expose any insects who might be planning to call our garden home for their winter hibernation. Hopefully this will reduce the number of pests I have to deal with come spring.
Amend the soil. I add a layer of compost and gently till it in to enrich the soil and build the nutrient base for the spring. I use Coast of Maine soil and compost products — they’re organic, and they’ve proven to work well in my garden.
Plant cover crops. I throw down a few handfuls of seeds that will grow into cover crops through the winter. The sprouts will serve several purposes — their roots help prevent erosion, they feed the soil and keep it nutrient-rich, and they help regulate the moisture in the soil. I’m using clover and rye, but you could also use mustard, buckwheat, or other small grains.
Cover with a layer of leaves. There is no shortage of leaves on the ground in our neighborhood, so I scoop up a few armloads and spread a thin layer over the surface of the garden beds. The leaves will decompose over the coming months, adding even more nutrients to the soil. (Even better if the leaves have been mulched through a lawn-mower, because the smaller bits will decompose more quickly.)
The Lilac Bed is ready for its winter nap under a fresh cover of leaves that will decompose and add nutrients to the soil over the coming months.
Install row covers or cold frames. This is optional, and serves primarily to extend the growing season if you have cold weather crops growing. I did plant a few seeds of broccoli and leafy greens, but I most likely missed the window of opportunity for them to germinate. Ideally the seeds would have been put into the ground in early fall, to give them time to germinate and grow into hardy seedlings before the frost sets in. Regardless, I’m adding row covers, just in case our frost comes late this year — it’s always worth a try!
I use these heavy duty polypropylene row covers to extend the growing season into the cold weather — it creates a greenhouse-like effect for the plants underneath.
Leave hardy plants in place. Our rosemary and thyme will survive the winter, so there’s no need to do anything to them. I’m also not doing anything to our grapes or blackberry vines — they will (hopefully!) survive as well.
This will be our first winter with grape vines, so we’re eager to see how they fare through the frost.
And now our garden is done for the season. We’ll all take a much-needed rest, and with the turn of the new year I’ll begin planning for our spring garden. Until then, happy hibernating!