Preparing Your Garden for Winter


Autumn is approaching, and the high holy days of another gardening season are coming to an end.

Depending on who you are, there are two ways to view the closing of another cultivation curtain for the year: You may be the person who thinks back on the halcyon days of the previous months with a soft and warming reflective remembrance of your hours spent basking in the sun while you patiently and diligently nurtured your harvest to maturity.

Or you may find the person who equates his or her gardening experiences throughout the spring and summer to stepping on a series of rakes in perpetuity.

For those in the latter camp – we feel your pain. However, at Capital Area Women’s LifeStyle Magazine, our goal is to help ever and hurt never. That’s why we are offering some tips that you can do to put your garden to bed for a long winter’s nap that will make next year’s horticulture hullabaloo easier and more fruitful for both you and your plants.

In a 2018 article for Michigan State University Extension, Dixie Sandborn recommended getting started on preparing your garden for next year while tending to this year’s crop.

“Remove all nonbearing, dead and diseased plants as you harvest your current crops. After frost has blackened the leaves on the remaining plants, pull them up and compost them,” she explained. “If they are diseased, take care not to add them to your compost pile, as many pests are able to overwinter and come back with a vengeance next spring.”

Sandborn also suggested using the wind-down time in the fall to add organic matter to the soil: “Organic matter is not immediately available for plants, so giving it time will have your plants functioning at peak performance earlier next spring. Microorganisms are not as active in early spring; feeding them in the fall gives your garden a head start in the spring.”

The website also recommends setting aside time in the fall to till the soil in your garden. The spring brings with it many additional outdoor chores to tackle, so knocking this one out in the fall can be a time-saver a few months down the road. Plus, since the soil tends to be wet in the spring, a fall till can make for a much less torturous task.

“To relieve yourself of a giant spring task, and to make it easier by working drier earth, amend your garden soil in the fall. Kitchen gardens and large plots of seasonal color will fare better if you shift your spring soil prep to the fall,” according to the website. “Tilling opens up the soil, allowing oxygen to reach the deeper layers after a long season of production.”

Sandborn said tilling should be done in both directions. However, how much is too much? How long should you till the soil for?

Till it’s done, of course!

That joke absolutely kills at local garden clubs.

Um, actually, Sandborn said a rough till just once in each direction should do the trick.

Geez … tough crowd.

Tags: Autumn, Garden prep

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