Organizing Your Garden For Proper Winterizing

When the growing season comes to an end, it’s time to start preparing for the following spring by cleaning and winterizing your garden. If you want to start next year off on the right foot, it’s important to get to work before this year is over.

Before you yank everything out of the garden, make a list of where everything is growing because you don't want to put the same plants in the same location next year. Some vegetables give nutrients to the soil, while others take nutrients away, so it's important to rotate those crops to help build the soil’s structure and prevent the spread of disease.

A good plant to begin with is the tomato plant, which can get rather messy. As the plant starts dying back, remove the foliage and pick the fruit up from the ground. If the plant did not have blight, throw everything into the compost pile. If it did have blight, you need to be very diligent in picking up all the debris or the blight will live in the soil.

Fall cleanup is easy in the corn patch. All you need to do is remove the dead stalks. Cut them off but don't throw them out as they make an excellent seasonal decoration. Since corn depletes the soil of nitrogen, it's important to put nitrogen back. You can do that by planting a cover crop such as winter rye. Plant it as you’d plant grass seed and let it grow. If you live in a warmer climate and get 2 to 3 inches of growth in the fall, till it under. Otherwise, just wait until next spring.

Once you've cut down and cleared all the debris from your vegetable garden, it's important to amend the soil with generous amounts of peat moss, compost and manure. Spread them out evenly onto the soil, the thicker the layer the better. Then, fire up the rototiller and dig down 6 to 12 inches. The goal is to mix up all the amendments and get a great workout while you’re at it.
 
Once annuals die back, they won’t return so remove the dead flowers and give them a new home in the compost bin. Perennials, on the other hand, will return with proper care. If you live in a colder climate, instead of cutting the stems after the plants die back, you may want to leave them. Snow can get trapped in between and that works as a great insulator. You must insulate, and you do that with mulch, but you don’t want to put the mulch down until the ground freezes.

There are many materials that make excellent mulch. Some you can buy, and some are free, such as leaves, straw and pine needles. Not only do leaves make an excellent mulch, they help to amend the soil. Oak leaves are particularly good since they don’t mat down. If you use other large leaves, you may want to spread them out in the driveway and run over them with a lawn mower to shred them apart. Whatever mulch you use, it's important to apply a layer that’s at least 4 to 6 inches deep.

That's it. You're done with your fall cleanup. . . and your beautiful spring garden will thank you!

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