Self Reliance Skill – Put Your Garden to Bed for the Winter
OK, I admit it – I failed miserably in my vegetable garden this year. I started with good intentions, planting on time, amending the soil and putting down mulch.
I did all the things you should do in the spring for a great garden except one thing – care for it afterwards.
This neglect has given me a small vegetable yield and an overgrown garden, so today’s self-reliance skill is the opposite of starting a garden, learning what to do to put your garden to bed for the winter.
This step is just as important to your garden as the preparation you will make in the spring, maybe even more important because if you do it right, you will take care of any pest and disease problems and you may even be able to plant earlier next year.
Clean your yard and garden to protect them from winter weather
Ross Penhallegon, horticulturist with Oregon State University gives us some tips to consider before cold weather sets in. These tasks are best done in October and November before the heavy rains and frost set in. See the Oregon State University Extension Service article
“Mulch your empty garden beds with fallen leaves and grass cuttings if they don’t have a cover crop on them yet,” Penhallegon said. “Mulch will help prevent erosion and rainwater compaction. Mulching also adds organic matter to the soil and encourages earthworm activity. Plus it will keep weed germination down.”
“Control the weeds that have recently germinated from early fall rains. It is a much easier job now than in the spring. A hoe or hand pulling will do it. “This is not a good time of year to use herbicides,” he said. “The damp soil makes it easy to hoe or pull weeds, big or little.”
And Mother Earth News suggests the following about cleaning your beds and composting:
“One thing that most gardeners will agree upon is that it’s worth the effort to clean out all the old annual plants. Some of the vines and climbing plants will die on their own and can be hauled to the compost by now. Others like tomatoes will wait for a hard frost to die. Be in no rush to clean out crops if you can still get some green tomatoes or a sweet pepper or two. However, when the season is over, cleaning out the dead plants prevents the build-up of disease and harmful insects. The heat of composting will kill them.”
“The dead plants and weeds that you clean out from your garden in the autumn become valuable additions to your compost. Don’t worry about knocking all the soil off the roots. Soil contains microbes that will boost the decomposition of your compost. The compost recipe is “two-parts brown and one-part green. Dried leaves, pine needles can be added to the dead plants to provide the “brown.” Kitchen waste, grass and still-green plants will help provide the “green” component of your compost recipe.”
Prepare the Soil
We have a fairly mild climate here in the Pacific Northwest and opportunity to garden year around with a little effort. So in addition to cleaning my garden beds, I’m going to make preparations for planting a few winter crops.
For crops that will be in the garden during rainy season, good drainage is essential. I have some work to do creating a few raised beds for the winter. These will be amended with compost and turned to aerate them.
I went today and purchased some garlic bulbs and if I, I mean when I, take the time to assemble my raised beds, these will produce beautifully and I won’t have to do anything else until spring but mulch them. The Fall and Winter Vegetable Gardening Guide from OHSU is very helpful.
So take some time at the end of the garden season and put your garden to bed for the winter. You will be glad you did in the spring and you will be one step closer to self reliance.