8 Tips for Maintaining Your Garden This Winter

You’ve completed all the heavy work and reaped the benefits of a summer garden. Now that winter is on its way, don’t stop now and leave your garden plot to let nature take over. Make things easier for next year’s garden by following these eight tips for maintaining your garden over the winter.

1. Clear Away Finished Plants
Spent plants left in the garden can foster disease, pests, and funguses. Insects left over from summer crops may have laid eggs on stalks and leaves. Removing these plants will tidy up your garden. Bury them in garden trenches and add organic matter to the soil. Dig up any invasive weeds. Trash them or throw them on an autumn burn pile.

2. Prepare Soil for the Next Growing Season
Don’t wait until spring to add soil amendments such as compost, manure, and bone meal. That way the nutrients will have time to break down and enrich the soil. Turning the soil now will give you a head start when the growing season comes again. Cover with plastic sheeting to protect against winter precipitation.

3. Plant Cover Crops
In some growing zones, fall is a good time to sow cover crops like rye or clover. This will help prevent soil erosion and add rich, organic matter and nutrients like nitrogen. Try to plant cover crops about one month before killing frost time. A local extension agent can advise you on cover crops for your region.

4. Prune Perrenials
Most perennials will benefit from a fall trim. Focus on herbs like thyme, sage, and rosemary and vegetables such as rhubarb and asparagus. Blackberries benefit from fall pruning but save pruning blueberries for the spring so they aren’t exposed to disease and stress. Do research to find what to prune in the fall.

5. Divide and Plant Bulbs
Three to four weeks after blooming it’s time to divide crowded or scraggly plants. Dig four to eight inches from the plant’s stalk. Carefully loosen them from the soil. Separate bulbs and plant them somewhere else. Go ahead and plant any daffodil, crocus, or tulip bulbs from your spring dividing now.

6. Regenerate Compost Heap 
If your compost heap has “cooked” over the summer it’s ready to top off garden beds, amend deficient soil, or use as a lawn fertilizer. Another benefit of cleaning it out is to make way for a new compost heap.

7. Replenish Mulch
As in summer, winter mulching cuts down on erosion, inhibits .eeds, and reduces water loss. A thick layer of winter mulch helps regulate soil temperature and moisture. Any root vegetables in the garden will be protected from frost, prolonging your crop. Winter mulch will also break down and add nutrients to the soil.

8. Clean and Sharpen Tools
It’s easy to get behind with the upkeep of tools during the busy gardening season. Use this transition time to remove dirt, debris, and rust from them. Sharpen shovels and hoes with a mill file. Pruners can be sharpened with a whetstone. Next, oil the surfaces of your tools with a light machine oil.

Looking Ahead
Taking steps to winterize your garden will make next year’s planting season easier and ensure a successful summer crop.

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