Putting the Garden to Bed
Benjamin Kilbride, Editorial Assistant at The Old Farmer’s Almanac
As the nights grow colder and leaves begin to change color, it’s time to start cleaning up the garden. Here are a few tips to do it right!
Why Put the Garden to Bed?
It’s important to clean up the garden before winter so that you’re ready to start planting the following spring. For example, pulling up dead plants, spreading mulch, and amending the soil with compost and nutrients all prepare the garden for a new season.
Prepare the Garden
After the last harvest, there’s still work to be done. Get it done now and you’ll save a lot of effort in the spring!
Remove All Vegetation
After the first fall frost, but before the ground has frozen, remove all vegetation from garden beds (expect for plants that will overwinter by mulching). Add the dead plants to your compost pile.
Water perennials, woody plants with shallow roots, evergreens, and lawns every 7 to 10 days until the ground freezes. If the soil is moist when the ground freezes, it gives plants a better chance of survival during the winter. Plants still use water to maintain themselves, even when they are dormant.
Apply Winter Mulch
Spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of mulch around the base of perennials, shrubs, and other overwintering plants, such as strawberries, once the ground has frozen. Winter mulch will keep soil temperatures cool over the winter when the snow temporarily melts or there is a warm spell. Mulch prevents plants from waking up too early and getting killed off when temperatures get cold again.
Spread a 3- to 4-inch layer of well-aged compost over your garden beds. Using a shovel or tiller, mix the compost into the beds up to 8 inches deep. In the spring, it’s a good idea to add more compost when you start to plant—you can never have too much compost!
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