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Main Content

Winter Garden Prep | Winter 2015 Out Here Magazine

Story and photography by Theresa Martz

Wouldn’t you love to start planting flowers and vegetables in the spring without having to spend time on garden prep work? Getting all the preparation and maintenance done in your flower and vegetable gardens and borders in the cooler months is the secret to getting off to a quick start in the spring.

Here’s what to do:

Weed and mulch. Two cool-weather tasks that will save you the greatest amount of time in the spring are weeding and mulching.

Weed anything that needs weeding, including paths, edges, or beds. Then mulch those areas heavily with leaves, straw, pine tags, aged wood chips, crop residue, or other organic materials you have on hand.

Most mulches look a lot a thicker when you first apply them. What appears to be 6 inches will settle to about 1 or 2 inches in a few days, especially after a rain. So don’t be afraid to pile it on. The thicker the mulch the better results you’ll get and the more time you’ll save in the spring.

If you don’t have enough organic materials to cover the soil with 6 inches of mulch, then use what you have. Even a thin layer that totally covers can benefit and save you time. As you get more mulch, add it to get the best results and have less work to do come spring.

Occasional spring weeds pop up, but mulching makes a huge difference in the number.

Thin perennials and cut back dead vegetation. Clumps of perennials such as giant rudbeckia, daylilies, mums, phlox, heliopsis, tradescantia, solidago, and aster that grow in mass quickly can become too large for their designated space.

Keep them under control and maintain breathing room in your garden by thinning them in the winter when you have more time. No need to lift the entire clump. Just dig out part of the clump until the desired amount remains.

Cut back dead vegetation on all your perennials and leave the residue where it falls. It’ll feed the soil and act as mulch as well. Nature reclaims it quickly, but if you think it looks messy, simply toss straw on top. That’s good for the soil, too.

Trim brambles. Cut out all dead wood on blueberry bushes, raspberries, and blackberries. Prune blueberry bushes if necessary. Thin raspberry and blackberry patches to the size you can easily maintain.

Plan ahead. Give some thought to placement of crops — particularly those such as onions and lettuce that go into the garden in late winter and early spring. Having a plan will help in getting the planting area ready so you’re not overwhelmed when the season is upon you.

I’m a “no till” gardener, so there’s not a lot for me to do but pull back the mulch and plant. If I find I need to do more after giving it some thought, I can easily have it completed by planting time.

If you’re one who tills, consider tilling in the fall before covering with mulch. Come spring, you’ll be ready to plant and won’t be detained by having to prepare the ground.

Try these chores this winter and you’ll get back the time you need to start planting right away in the spring.