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Prepare Your Vegetable Garden for Winter

Updated on December 16, 2017
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Writing Nag is a pseudonym of blogger Patricia Biro. She writes about home and garden, finance, creative writing, and vintage collectibles.

Vegetable Garden Wintering

The summer is almost over and Labor Day is almost here. The kids go back to school and we think about autumn and harvest time.

If you are a successful gardener, a vegetable garden gives you an abundance of produce over the summer months. It is as also an enjoyable hobby and way to unwind with nature.

As summer wanes, you must think about preparing your garden plot for the long winter. Proper garden preparation in the fall can yield better results in the spring and summer of the following year.

The End of the Growing Season

By the end of summer, your garden may be at the end of its productive stage, but don't be too quick to turn the soil under. You can still get a few tomatoes, peppers, squash and beans out of the plants in the late summer months. When production is over, you can bring in the last of the vegetables and roll up your sleeves to do the clean-up work that will maintain the overall health of your garden soil. If you are unsure when to clean up your garden, take your cue from the annual flowers. When they begin to brown and die, it's time to prepare for winter.

Good Sanitation

Remove the old plants from the ground. Dispose of any plants that have signs of plant disease such as spotted leaves or pale leaves. Healthy plants can be cut up and put into a compost pile. Clean tomato cages, trellises, hand tools and other equipment with a solution of 1 part water to 1 part chlorine bleach to kill bacteria that can lead to plant diseases.

Soil pH Adjustment

Autumn is a good time to test your soil's pH and make adjustments as needed. Most garden centers and home improvement stores carry soil test kits for home use. The pH scale measures the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. Values between below 7 are acidic. Values above 7 are alkaline. Most vegetables prefer a slightly acidic soil. To adjust the pH of your soil, gradually add lime to raise the pH value. Add sulfur to lower the value and make soil more acidic.

Soil Amendments

Late fall is also a good time to add soil amendments to your garden. Over the winter these will break down and provide good aeration and water retention for your new seeds and transplants. If you have made your own compost, apply it generously to the garden area. Processed manure is another good choice for amending soil. Work it into the soil thoroughly with a shovel.

Planting Cover Crops

A cover crop is a crop that is grown to protect the soil from erosion over the winter months. Rye, clover and buckwheat are common cover crops to use. You can plant buckwheat, clover and turnips and harvest the turnips as needed during the late autumn months. In the spring, you then turn over the cover crops to add more organic matter to the soil.

Overwintering Crops

Some crops can be planted in fall to prepare them for the following spring's growth. Spinach can be planted in mid-September in some areas. They will sprout for a time before the frost kills the leaves. The roots will survive over the winter months and will push up new growth in the spring. Add mulch several inches thick to these plants after the ground freezes to protect them from extreme weather, and remove the mulch as temperatures warm in spring. Garlic, rhubarb and shallots can also be planted for next spring.

© 2012 Patricia Biro


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