Winterize Garden

Winterizing the Garden


It’s late fall here in the south, or early winter as it were, leaves are changing color, dying off and falling to the ground. Squirrels are stashing nuts and berries to prepare for surviving winter, and life on the farm begins to wind down a bit. This weekend one of our main goals around the homestead will be preparing our gardens to survive the winter, as well as giving them a head start on being productive come next spring.

Soil Prep
Once the fruits of your labor have been harvested and stored for the winter, it’s time to tend to the garden plot itself, and nothing matters more than the soil condition of the garden bed.
• Fertilize the soil. The plants and all residual matter should be removed by now, and your soil needs time to heal and mend itself; natural fertilizer is recommended.
• Use your compost (plant and animal waste). This will help replace lost minerals and create aerated soil for the plants come spring.

Here on our homestead we have a couple different gardens to tend to, each used for growing specific plants, which means they each require a different winterizing schedule. Our primary garden encompasses the entire backyard. We have fruit trees, bushes, and vines in one garden, all our vegetables in another, and herbs and flowers in yet a third plot. This allows us to grow potatoes, peppers, corn, carrots, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, peas and tomatoes in one plot, while growing mint, cilantro, parsley, chamomile, and sage in the other. We rotate the two gardens with vegetables and herbs, but the fruit trees, bushes, and vines remain in the same plot year in and year out. We also incorporate support plants and flowers to entice natural pollinators to visit and perform their necessary work.

Winterize Garden

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Natural Fertilizers

Keep in mind that the focus at this stage is going to be on the soil itself. On our homestead, we try to focus on using materials we have readily available, thereby creating a “closed loop.” A closed loop basically refers to a system that requires no outside support or supplements; we grow our own food for both family and livestock, composting any food and plant scraps as well as waste from the livestock, to create a magical elixir that improves the soil conditions in our gardens. Some folks refer to this as a fertilizer “tea,” but the name is not that important, the end results are.

We basically applied compost to our garden beds once all plant matter had been removed, mixing the compost into the existing bed, tilling the soil to a depth of about 4”-6”. Once we were confident the soil and compost were well mixed, we covered the garden beds with wood chips. This will help the compost continue to perform its job over the winter and get the soil in optimal condition for bumper crops next year.

Indoor Gardening

Winter is rapidly approaching, which means the ability to grow food outside is coming to an end. One of the things we decided to try our hand at this year is indoor gardening. We built a small greenhouse on the south lawn where we plan on getting a few new fruit trees started, as well as keeping a few herbs plentiful throughout the year, and maybe a select group of our favorite vegetables, space permitting.

Winter is the worst time of year for avid gardeners, but it doesn’t have to be. The winter season provides two things we desperately need; a break for ourselves, and a break for our gardens, both of which are well deserved after a long season of cultivating crops.

What winterizing schedules are you using with your gardens to get them ready for the harsh climates and to prepare them for a productive spring?

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