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Winter is coming soon, so preparing raised beds for winter is the next step in the garden. There are a few things you can do to make your spring garden far more productive. Great information for beginning gardeners.
In our gardens, when old plants die or freeze, we leave the roots in the ground to compost under the soil and leave us with richer soil in the spring. So, we cut the plants off at ground level and compost the material. If there was disease on the plants, we throw them in the trash rather than the compost as not to add more disease to the garden next year.
If you are growing root crops or certain leafy greens like kale, don’t cut them off until they die, because they may grow and produce all winter depending on your area. In zone 7, they usually winter over. Herbs do as well and other perennials, of course, should be left. Most root crops will actually sweeten with a light frost and taste even better.
You will need to maintain your perennials such as pruning. Woody herbs, blueberry and raspberry bushes, and fruit trees need to be pruned for better spring health. More tender herbs should not be pruned.
Asparagus, for example, shouldn’t have the fronds cut off until they turn completely brown. The green fronds feed the roots that produce next year’s asparagus.
✔Here’s a link to a great vegetable garden planner you can print right out and use at home! So cute!
Winterizing garden beds
The next step is to remove any remaining weeds from the raised beds. I don’t want anything wintering over and producing even stronger roots for the spring.
Then we add compost to each raised bed. For my 3 foot by 10-foot beds, I like to add 3-4 bags of compost. I don’t mix it in, I let the worms do it over the cool season.
Winterizing raised garden beds
A great thing to do in the late fall when preparing raised beds for winter is to take a soil sample from each one. This will give you an idea of the pH of your soil and let you know if any other amendments should be added to the bed. For more secrets on building super great garden soil, click the highlighted link.
You can add in any crushed eggshells and old potting mix that you need to use up and turn it all in. You can also add composted manures if you use them at this time.
Next, and the most important step of all in preparing raised beds for winter is to add mulch. You can get it for free by raking up all the fallen leaves from your yard. They are the perfect winter blanket. You can also use straw (never hay) if you don’t have access to leaves.
What does mulch do to help the garden over the winter? It prevents soil erosion or loss, helps the soil retain moisture, and breaks down to add more nutrients into the garden. Click here for more benefits of mulch and more ways to get free mulch for raised beds.
The final step in preparing raised beds for winter is to plant cover crops if you choose to do that. They can add nutrients to the soil, prevent erosion of soil, and feed the soil when you till them into the soil in the springtime. There are many crops you can plant such as clover or oats.
Another thing you can do if your raised bed is completely packed with weeds and you don’t have the heart or energy to weed it is cover the raised bed in plastic or even cardboard and choke out existing weeds over the winter.
You can also till the raised beds, but it can damage the bed structure, and tilling always damages beneficials in the soil such as worms and nematodes that make gardens healthy. If the soil is very compacted, you may have to try to till.
You can also build mini hoop houses with PVC pipe and plastic to extend your growing season for cool-season crops such as lettuce, carrots, radishes, and cole crops. In addition, you can build them with old windows set across hay bales or whatever you have on hand that can let in light but keep out cold winds.
These end of the season tasks in the raised beds will make your spring crops a lot more productive. When you move that mulch aside for spring planting, you’ll have loamy, healthy soil that’s ready to plant right away.
For more information check out this month by month garden planting guide.