Whether you have a large or small garden, seasonal changes play an important role in the health of your plants. Many of the plants that thrive in spring and summer can suffer heavily in the colder winter months, and as such it’s important to spend some time preparing your garden for winter.
Winter Garden Tips
Winter prepping your garden will ensure that your plants are able to bounce back in the spring thaw, helping to create an even lusher and greener garden than the previous year.
In this article, we’ll provide a series of handy hints to help you prepare your garden for winter.
Tip 1: Clean Up Your Garden
One of the most important steps in preparing your garden for winter is clearing away weeds, fungus, and insects. Gardening is a cyclical process, meaning that garden work must be performed at all times of the year. By constantly nurturing and working with your garden, you’ll provide the best possible environment for your garden to thrive.
Weeds and fungus can absorb essential nutrients that can make a critical different during the cold winter months for many plants. Maintaining a balance between nutrients, moisture and heat is essential in ensuring the health of your garden. During late fall, be sure to clear out any weeds, fungus and unwanted plants from your garden.
This should be a weekly practice, but it’s important to pay special attention to this task in the lead-up to winter. Eliminating insect pests from your garden such as aphids and slugs is also essential in maintaining garden health throughout the year.
Tip 2: Distribute Mulch
Mulch is a nutrient-dense material that will decay over the winter months and provide your plants with the nutrients they need to survive. It also provides a thick layer of ground cover that will protect the roots and stems of your plants from frost and snow.
To distribute mulch in your garden for winter, begin by removing all non-essential or organic elements from your garden. Plant markers, bamboo poles, trellises, temporary fences and any other non-organic materials should be removed and stored.
After clearing your garden, weed the area exhaustively and place any unwanted weeds in a compost heap to create more mulch. If you identify any mold, fungus or insect larvae on any of the plants that you remove from your garden, don’t add them to the compost pile, as they will contaminate it. Discard or burn these plants, making sure to check local law regarding garden waste burning or garden waste disposal.
Once your garden is free from organic and inorganic waste, distribute mulch extensively. Apply a layer of mulch several inches thick around all of the plants you wish to preserve throughout the winter.
Mulch has a number of benefits for the garden- bulbs and root vegetables such as garlic, onions, parsnips, potatoes or carrots will be protected from excessive cold and frost.
Mulch also helps the soil to retain moisture and heat, locking in essential nutrients for the plants to use throughout winter. Winter rains have the propensity to wash these nutrients away, so a thick layer of moist acts as a rain blanket, preventing erosion.
A layer of mulch also prevents weeds from sprouting, denying their seeds the sunlight and air they need to grow.
Tip 3: Prepare Your Perennials
Perennial herbs and plants suffer the most during winter. The best practice for preparing perennial plants for winter varies depending on the plant type. Herbs should be trimmed almost down to ground level and covered with a thick layer of protective mulch.
Berry bushes can be left until late winter, but will need to be cut back and trimmed before spring. If you keep berry trees in pots, consider bringing them closer to the house to protect them from the wind.
Winter and autumn vegetable plants such as kale, celery, carrots or cabbage should be covered in mulch before the onset of winter. To preserve these plants place a hoop house over the top of the plant then cover in mulch.
Tip 4: Winter Composting
Composting isn’t only for the summer months. Although the decay process that causes composting slows down significantly during the winter, it still occurs, meaning composting can be performed regardless of the weather.
Only arctic environments complete composting from occurring in any significant manner. Keeping your compost close to your house or shed, preferably under the eaves, will help to keep snow and frost from interfering with the composting process.
Alternatively, you can cover your compost pile with a tarp to keep it safe from the cold. Be sure to continue to feed your compost pile and turn it once every three weeks during the winter months.
Tip 5: Winter Gardening Techniques
The possibility of gardening during winter depends on the resources and tools you have available. Avid gardeners often maintain indoor greenhouses or hydroponic setups, complete with grow lights and space heaters. This is an effective method of keeping delicate plants alive during the winter months but can become excessively expensive depending on your power costs.
Heat mats can be essential in promoting plant growth during colder months. If you’re planting any small plants in planter pots during January or February, consider placing them on top of a heat mat to promote rapid growth.
If possible, any lemon trees, citrus trees, rosemary plants, and similar should be carried inside either a greenhouse or room with large windows in direct sunlight. Herbs can be brought indoors and grown on window sills during the winter months. If you’re committed to growing plants during the winter months, consider investing in either a hoop house or cold frame.
Tip 6: Research Extensively
The most important tool in the hands of any gardener is information. Gardeners, both expert and novice, should always aim to expand their knowledge base to enhance their gardening practice.
Like any skill, gardening requires an investment of time and effort to bear fruit. Sketch out goals, determine available space, decide on a gardening method and hardiness zone, and work with your experience level.
If you’re new to gardening, there are a few essential tidbits of information to absorb before beginning. Novice gardeners should know the difference between non-organic and organic, heirloom, hybrid, and GMO/non-GMO seeds. Your local environmental zone is an important piece of information, as is an understanding of the plants that grow well in your region, and those that don’t.
Once you have a basic understanding of these factors, it’s advisable to develop a grasp of more complex topics such as how to create compost and use it effectively or basic garden troubleshooting such as identifying and treating fungus, soil issues and diseases.
Learning how to check soil pH level, temperature, moisture levels, and mineral saturation is also a critical tool in creating a well-balanced and healthy garden.
An intermediate understanding of the art of gardening will allow gardeners to develop an insight into more specific and complicated knowledge. Expert gardeners are able to determine the quality and balance of their soil and adjust it accordingly with ingredients such as eggshells or coffee grounds, or boost nutrients with specific garden formulations.
A basic understanding of plant biology goes a long way in creating a thriving garden. Aim to develop an understanding of the specific nutrients that various plants draw from the soil to grow, and what nutrients they add back into it. Legumes such as beans and peas, for example, are able to replenish nitrogen levels in the soil.
Once you’ve harvested your legumes for the year, cutting the plant down to ground level and leaving the roots in the soil will cause the roots to release nitrogen into the surrounding soil. This kind of information is learned via trial, error, and research, and helps gardeners create thriving, balanced gardens.
Overall, a garden is a full time and highly rewarding hobby. One of the best tools that can be used in any garden is diatomaceous earth. DE can be used to prevent insect infestations or fertilize soil. For more information, check out our articles on Natural Aphid Control With Diatomaceous Earth and Natural Slug Control With Diatomaceous Earth.
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