The weather is cooling off, the leaves are beginning to fall, and the calendar is telling us that autumn is going to be here before we know it. While the cooler weather and colorful scenery are welcome changes after a long, warm summer, they also indicate that the end of the gardening season is fast approaching.
Before you put all of your tools in the shed and hang up your gloves for the colder months, do yourself a favor and set yourself up for a fruitful harvest next year by taking a few simple steps now to prepare your garden for winter.
So if you want to reap the benefits of gardening next year, here are four steps you should be taking now so you’ll be ready to hit the ground running in the spring.
1. Clean Up The Garden
With the change in weather, you’ll notice that some plants are starting to dry up; meanwhile, pesky weeds are starting to thrive. Spend some time enjoying the crisp fall air while you walk through and clean up your garden. Start by getting rid of any dead or unhealthy plants and other debris. Some pests and plant diseases like to hang out on plant debris throughout the winter, which means they will be there to wreak havoc in the spring if you don’t get rid of them now. With that in mind, you don’t need to stress about getting rid of every single piece of debris from your garden. There are good bugs that like to hibernate in garden debris too, so leaving some debris that you know aren’t infested or diseased can be beneficial to your garden in the long run.
Once you have disposed of the dead plants and debris, it’s the perfect time to get rid of all of the weeds that have popped up. While it may be tempting to just rip the weeds off at the surface, you’ll be better off taking the extra time to dig them up. This will allow you to get rid of as many of the roots as possible, which will make the weeds more vulnerable to winter weather and less likely to cause you problems next season.
2. Add Organic Compost
The soil under your feet is home to trillions of microscopic organisms, and the vast majority of them help the plants in your garden thrive. These beneficial organisms are what make up healthy soil, and the key to helping them survive the winter is providing them with plenty of food.
The best way to do this is to add a layer of organic homemade compost to your garden before the weather gets too cold. Ideally, your compost won’t be completely decomposed yet, and as it sits in your garden over the next few months it will continue to break down, providing a continuous supply of food for all those microorganisms and giving your plants healthy, nutrient-rich soil in the spring.
3. Cover Your Soil
Now that you have given your soil much-needed nutrients, the next step is to give it a little cover to protect it from the harsh weather. You can do this in one of two ways—planting some cover crops or laying mulch. Cover crops like clover, peas, or winter barley are great to plant in the fall because they will not only provide protection but also help to replenish the soil by giving it a boost of nutrients.
If you’d rather not plant a cover crop, you can protect your soil with a layer of mulch. Adding 1 to 3 inches of mulch over your garden helps protect it from being washed away, preserves moisture, and makes it harder for weed seeds to grow. Additionally, the mulch will begin to break down over the next few months, which will slowly add nutrients to your soil.
4. Do General Maintenance
With those three tasks complete, it’s time to put away your tools and equipment for the winter. But before you hang everything in the shed, make sure they will be in the best shape possible when you are ready to use them again. Here are just a few ways you can do that:
- Clean Garden Pots and Trays: Keep mold away and make planting season easier by thoroughly cleaning all your empty pots and trays before putting them in storage. This way, they will be ready for you when you’re ready to plant next year’s garden.
- Fix and Clean Tools and Spaces: Your gardening tools have helped you do a lot over the last few months, and all that work can contribute to them being dirty, dull, and rusty. Make sure they are ready for next year by thoroughly cleaning, oiling, and sharpening all your tools before putting them away. Now is also a great time to repair any damage to your shed and fix any issues with your irrigation system.
- Expand Your Garden: If you have been looking to make your garden space bigger, this is the best time to do so. You can start clearing weeds and nourishing your soil now so that the space doesn’t need as much preparation come spring. Don’t forget to protect this newly cleared area with cover crops or mulch as well.
- Buy Seeds: Winter is the best time to buy your seeds in bulk. Since it’s the off-season, you’re more likely to get a great deal on the seeds you are looking for, then you will already have them on hand when it comes time to plant.
Live The #NewEarthLife
Gardening is a great way to nourish your body with healthy foods while enjoying all that nature has to offer. That’s why we consider it part of living the #NewEarthLife. Give yourself a helping hand this fall by doing everything you can to make sure your garden is ready to take on the winter months and be ready to go once the weather starts warming up again. Trust us, you’ll thank yourself for it later.
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