We know, we know. You probably aren’t interested in even talking about the start of fall and winter. But, if you’re an avid gardener (or a newbie), it’s probably a good idea to consider how you’ll prep your garden for the upcoming colder months.
DeVito adds: “If you have had problem areas, definitely clean up the garden. Doing a lot in fall will save you a ton of time in spring when gardeners usually have a lot more to do.”
Here, we’ll walk through the top five tips for gardeners who want to get their gardens in order before the ground begins to freeze come fall and winter.
How to Prepare Your Garden for Fall and Winter
If you have plants in your garden that you want to last through colder months, then you need to prepare ahead of time, explains Melinda Myers, gardening expert & host of The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series.
One of the simplest ways to protect your outdoor plants is by mulching. When doing so, you should layer an organic material, such as straw, bark chips, and other course-textured materials, to cover the ground. This protects from frost.
“I like to spread compost or other organic mulches over areas that will be planted in spring,” says Lee Reich, Ph.D., scientist, gardener, and farmer. “I hate to see bare soil, which is prone to wide swings in temperature and subject to washing away and forming ruts from winter rains.”
Another tactic is to “wrap any tender trees or shrubs like camellias or figs, especially if you live in the Northern part of the U.S.,” DeVito says.
What to Clear Out of the Garden
When prepping for the cold, you should also consider what in your garden needs to be taken away.
“In a vegetable garden, clean up and compost old, dead plants, so you’ll be all ready to plant next spring,” Reich says.
DeVito agrees with Reich and says that you should also “cut down all perennials.” Once the first frost sets in and they start to look blackened and “sad,” pull them out and deposit them in the compost bin.
Additionally, you should also “rake up most leaves and add to compost—or shred and put on other garden beds,” DeVito says. “You can shred leaves with a lawnmower on the highest setting.”
What to Store Away for the Season
There are certain garden tools and items that you should put away for the winter.
For example, “empty out any pots that could freeze and crack over winter—terracotta or ceramic only,” DeVito says. “Leave the rest out and plant with fun fall or winter plants.”
This is a good idea, especially since gardening pots—such as ceramic ones—can be so expensive in price.
How to Protect Your Garden from Frost
Protecting your garden ahead of time is key—especially when it comes to the frost that’s about to hit.
“Continue proper care even as the temperatures drop,” Myers says. For instance, animals’ eating patterns change in colder months—which could send them straight for your gardens to nibble.
To protect against hungry critters, like deer, you should “apply repellents like organic Plantskydd, a product that is also rain and snow resistant so you will not need to reapply as often,” Myers says.
Plantskydd Animal Repellent, $33.65 from Amazon
Otherwise, to keep animals from feasting on your plants, you could also install protective fencing or “several strands of fishing line strung on posts around small gardens has also helped many gardeners discourage browsing by deer,” Myers says.
What to Plant in Fall and Winter
“Many vegetables thrive in cool weather,” Reich says. “Those would include many members of the cabbage family, including broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and Chinese cabbages.”
Reich adds: “Parsley and arugula are also quite cold hardy, [as are] kale, collards, and Brussels sprouts. One of my favorite salad greens that survives winter—even at 20 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) is mache, also known as corn salad.”
Related Reading: How to Grow Your Own Lettuce & Salad Greens
This time of year is “also a great time to prepare new planting beds—whether a raised bed or in-ground,” Myers says. “Fall often provides wonderful weather, since it’s cooler and a bit drier, allowing you to prepare new planting sites whether removing existing grass and adding compost or creating a lasagna garden.”
When cold weather hits, “it’s also a great time to plant trees and shrubs because they won’t be stressed by summer heat,” says DeVito.
“Finally, it is a great time to plant chrysanthemums, asters, and grasses,” DeVito says. “In early winter, before frost, I also love to plant small evergreens in containers so that I have something pretty to look at all winter.”
She adds: “Choose dwarf types and do a mixture of textures and colors. Hollies, spruces, junipers, and Chamaecyparis are good choices.”
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