Fall is here and we are loving the gorgeous weather, beautiful foliage displays and fun festive seasonal activities. With fall upon us, it can only mean one thing, winter is coming. After enjoying blooms and harvests from our gardens all summer long, now is the perfect time to begin to prepare our gardens for fall and winter. Each winter, the ground freezes creating a sort of hibernation for all the life that thrives there each spring, summer and fall. Therefore we can’t expect our soil to thrive during this time and must prepare it for the incoming season. Taking the time and effort to clean up and prepare your garden can give you a head start come spring time. Here are some practical tips and things to do to properly prepare your garden for fall and winter.
How to Prepare Your Garden For Fall and Winter
After a long season of gardening, we can be tempted to leave our gardens in disarray knowing they will be covered by snow soon. But take the time to clean your gardens up and get them ready for hibernation now. Remove diseased plants that may be sucking the nutrients from the soil and harming other healthy plants in your garden. Remove invasive weeds, sticks, dead plants and any other unwanted visitors in your garden beds. Believe me, you will thank yourself come spring when your garden is looking fresh and ready for another season of growth.
Clean Your Tools
Fall is a great time to give your tools a refresh. Clean up the dirt and grime from tools to ensure they don’t get rusty over the winter. Sharpen them and leave them tucked away in a safe spot for the winter months, so when it’s time to dig in to your garden again they are just like new!
Many people only add mulch at the beginning of the growing season in the spring, but the fall is a great time to mulch your garden and help that garden soil refresh and prepare for another growing season. Mulch helps to protect your plants and soil from winter elements such as frost, erosion and being uprooted as well as helps plants absorb water. You don’t have to go out and buy a fancy mulch, you can actually mulch with leaves. Shredded leaves provide a great protectant for your plants and soil and it’s cost free and completely natural and organic!
Protect Annuals from Frost
You may still be enjoying the bounties of your summer labor with those heartier garden vegetables that can survive a light frost. Cover crops in your fall garden to help protect them from those cooler temperatures. This is a great guide for determining which temperatures your vegetables can thrive and survive in.
Don’t forget to prune your perennials to ensure they grow back healthy and happy next spring, summer and fall. It is sometimes suggested that plants are pruned after they bloom, for example lilacs should be pruned once they flower in the spring. But if you haven’t pruned yet, now is a good time to do it before winter. This will help to remove the unhealthy parts of the plant and ensure the nutrients from the soil go to the healthy parts of the plant.
Dig up Bulbs
Some bulbs just cannot survive a harsh cold winter like we have here in the north east. If you haven’t already, look up the plants in your garden to ensure the bulbs will last through the winter. If they can’t, it will be important to properly dig it up and store it safely for winter. Another reason for digging up and replanting bulbs is to help them thrive and bloom. Some plants will lack in blooms if they stay in one spot. Transplanting them is a great way to keep those blooms coming year after year. Once you’ve dug up the bulbs, you can then replant them and enjoy the beautiful blooms come spring! Check out this guide on when and how to transplant bulbs.
The fall is a great time to plant fresh bulbs if you are wanting to add to your garden. There are specific bulbs that are best to plant in the fall for spring and summer blooms. The best bulbs to plant during fall are those that bloom early spring and summer, these include daffodils, crocuses, tulips, hyacinth, irises and alliums. Putting in the time now to prepare your garden for spring and summer will provide you with some fun blooms come spring. You will be so pleasantly surprised to see those blooms sprout up.
If you are having the opposite problem and need to weed out your garden a bit due to overgrowth, you may want to divide out your bulbs. Wait until the leaves have died on your plants before digging up bulbs to divide up. Check out this guide on How to Divide Flowering Spring Bulbs for more tips and tricks.
Get a Soil Test
If your garden hasn’t been performing quite like you hoped, fall is a great time to get a soil test. A soil test can tell you the type of soil and therefore provide you with information moving forward. You may want to test several of your garden beds as soil can vary throughout a property. If your soil is on the sandier side there is specific fertilizer you can use to help your plants flourish. Getting this information in the fall will help you be more prepared come spring to give your plants what they need to succeed!
Amend the Soil
Amend the soil in your gardens by adding soil amendments like compost, manure and mulch. By giving your garden this extra layer of protection, you will keep your garden safe from the harsh winter elements. Adding mulch to your garden or sowing a cover crop will help to prevent damage to your garden from rain and other elements. You can sow a cover crop by planting things like rye, vetch or clover which create a sort of protectant blanket over crops and plants.
Add Organic Compost
Organic compost is a great way to nourish your garden soil without worrying that you are adding any unsafe pesticides or harming our planet with chemicals and unnatural additives. Try a bone meal, kelp or rock phosphate compost or better yet, put your own home compost to good use. Your summer compost pile should be ready to go after all the heat and time spent decomposing over the season and can be used to amend the soil. This organic material is so healthy for the soil and earth. Keep using your compost bin throughout the winter so you can use that compost again come spring!
I don’t know about you, but our vegetable garden went a bit wild this summer. It will be crucial that we take the time to weed out our garden for winter to ensure we don’t have a mess to deal with come spring. Unfortunately those weeds that sneak their way into our gardens during the summer come right back the next year. Be sure to pull all the way down from the roots so they won’t come back in next years garden.
What are you doing to prepare your garden for fall and winter? Let us know in the comments below.
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