Preparing Your Garden for Next Season
The time has come. Planting has been done for months. There are only a few last crops producing edible fruits. You are still waiting for those carrots to get even a bit larger. The growing season is coming to a close. If you are a seasoned gardener, you hopefully have been steadily cleaning up bits and pieces of your garden so that you don’t have to spend an entire weekend in the cold weather preparing for the winter. If you have yet to start this somewhat daunting process, have no fear! Ekar Farm has you covered. Review our checklist below and start as soon as you can instead of doing it all at once!
End of Growing Season Checklist:
- Remove all your old plants (excluding perennials). This removal process includes either uprooting your crops that are done for the year and/or simply chopping off the above-ground plant parts, leaving the roots to stay in the soil. This is all dependent on how difficult it might be to pull out your plants. There are some benefits of leaving roots in the soil such as holding onto said soil to decrease soil loss during the non-growing months. Either way, keep any organic matter that is not pest- or disease-ridden in your garden so its nutrients can go back into the soil as an amendment for next year!
- Take down any removable structures. These structures might include trellising, stakes, tomato cages, fencing, signage, decoration, etc. It’s best to store these items that are easily removable indoors for the winter so they can last you for years to come!
- Add compost, mulch, and other amendments. After a full, productive growing season, your soil is begging for some replenishment over the winter. Add as much organic compost, mulch such as hay, straw, grass clippings, wood chips, leaves, etc., and other amendments your soil might be lacking (i.e. blood meal, lime) to feed your soil some delicious NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium). Some folks even start adding their food scraps to their around this time if they are unable to purchase or obtain compost otherwise. Just make sure to bury them well so you don’t attract unwanted guests.
- Plant garlic. If you want to continue growing something over the winter, garlic is the crop to grow! It’s unique in its need to hibernate over the winter to then prosper in the spring and summer months. Just like a baby fetus, it requires 9 months to grow to maturity! Gather some bulbs of organic garlic, separate the cloves while leaving the skin on for warmth and protection, then plant the seeds (blunt side down, this will become the root system) about 4-6 inches apart with about an inch of soil covering it. Rows should be spaced about 1 foot apart. The more room you give them, the bigger they shall grow. Compost is essential for planting garlic because it needs many nutrients to grow well. After all your cloves are planted and covered with soil, add a thick layer of mulch (straw, hay, leaves, etc.) to create a warm blanket for these babies for the winter.
- Seed cover crops. Another option for the rest of your garden that you don’t plant garlic in is to seed some cover crops that can continue to build your soil structure. At this time of year, you’ll need to choose winter-hardy cover crops like winter rye, winter peas, hairy vetch, and crimson clover. Johnny’s Seeds is a great resource if you are interested in pursuing this method of soil amending.
- Get some rest! Congratulations on a successful gardening season! Take comfort in your home, with your friends and family, and with your favorite winter activities. Feel free to start planning for next year’s garden, reflecting on your challenges and victories of this season. We’ll share resources about garden planning and preparing for next spring in the upcoming months.