what do you do to get your garden ready for winter?

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 - 8:55am

What are your fall gardening rituals? There are many things we gardeners do all year, every season. But there are rituals to late fall, to the end of the growing season and just before the frost hits, whenever that hits in your area. Of course we also work in more compost, transplant and prune now, and we weed and we save seeds for next year, but here are some of our late fall gardening chores (in USDA Zone 8a).

Late plantings. Some crops need a touch of frost to do well. Things like kale and collard greens enjoy the cold weather. I try to set aside a bed that had legumes to plant these, so that the nitrogen-fixing properties of the previous bean roots will help fertilize the Autumn cruciferous veggies. Parsnips are a particular favorite of ours in that they grow best in the winter. We plant them in November and harvest them in February. Leave a plant in the ground over a summer (or two) and it may give you more seeds than you know what to do with.

Weed clearing and mulching. I used to grouse that our winters are so mild that I had to pull more weeds in the spring than I did in the summer. But now I just cover the cleared bed with about six inches of pine straw, which insulates it. Weeds don't really grow under pine straw. Northern gardeners - do you do anything like this?

Under-mulch roots/veggies. Oddly enough, as long as the winter is mild enough (that seems to mean it stays above 15 F) established plants like carrots and Swiss chard and "cut and cut again" lettuces like Jericho cos will overwinter well under the same pine straw mulch that keeps the weeds at bay. I just uncover the beds in late February and anything that survives gives me an early start on spring veggies.

Winter-potted herbs. Basil in nigh on impossible to grow indoors but transplanting basil indoors is another matter. Other herbs we've sucessfully brought indoors include parsley and chives. Just don't put the catnip pot on the same windowsill unless you want them all on the floor.

The mad dash to bring in the last crops before a hard freeze will come soon, and with it braiding the onions and the last of the peppers, beans, cukes and tomatoes. Until then, there is still a lot of work to be done here.

 

9 Comments

Doug's picture
Doug
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pine straw?

Thanks for the post safewrite, it gives some things to think about.  I've never heard of pine straw.  I googled it and it seems to just be pine needles.  Is that right?  I would never have thought of using pine needles as mulch as I assume it would be too acidic.  I have a grove of red pines that someone planted on my property about 30 years ago that has a significant layer of pine needles.  Would you suggest raking it up and using it as garden mulch?

Thanks, Doug

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OptOut
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We use wood chips, lots of

 We use wood chips, lots of wood chips. I got this trick from my neighbor.  My neighbor(different neighbor) logs his property and we are welcome to his slash piles. We used a chipper and covered our garden. I tilled the first batch in then we left a thick layer on top. To "weed" our garden we walk around with a rake and move chips on top of any weeds we see, pretty easy. This is our first year doing this so we will see how it all turns out. We are also going to try to get as much charcoal as we can from the neighbors next slash burn. I have read about Terra Preta from down in the Amazon and it sounds amazing.

http://www.acresusa.com/toolbox/reprints/Feb07_TerraPreta.pdf

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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pine straw

Doug, pine straw is exactly that - pine needles. But our Southern pine needles are not the stubby little things like you'd see on a Christmas tree. We have them long enough to make broom heads here: the long-needleed pine in our front yard, for example, has 10-inch to 12-inch needles. Here, they sell it in bales like straw at Lowes and other garden centers.

Some plants love acidic soil: blueberries are my favorite example. My local agricultural cooperative extension suggested I plant my blueberry bushes within six feet of the trunk of that long-needled pine, where the partial shade would protect them from the hot summer sun and the pine would provide the acidic soil blueberries love. Azaleas and hydrangeas do well in acidic soil, too.


For plants that perfer a more neutral pH we sprinkle on our cooled fireplace ash, which is a base. One application a year is usualy enough.

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Woodman
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garden over winter

I planted garlic, just bulbs from the supermarket, to overwinter and harvest next year.  

I have some spinach and miner's lettuce (claytonia) in cold frames.  The spinach is cold hardy and will jump start in the spring.  The claytonia can survive frosts and provide greens through winter.

I let my chickens use the fenced garden area for a run in the winter.  I put some carpet scraps around the blueberry bushes so the hens can't dig them up.

Doug's picture
Doug
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over winter

I plant garlic every year in a raised bed.  This year I mulched the bed  and an asparagus raised bed with straw from the chicken coop.  I also mulched a couple raised beds with the same stuff after turning in compost and peat moss in preparation for spring planting.

Overall I'm trying to add as much organic material to the soil as possible.  In one section of the garden I grew some buckwheat in the late summer that I mowed and then carpeted that area with some bales of partially composted hay. 

I also came into possession of a lot of mulched fall leaves and grass that I split between adding a layer to one area of the garden and a pile to compost over the winter.

WRT to blueberries, we have had some bushes for at least 15 years that seem to do fine with almost no care.  Our soil is naturally acidic, so I don't need to supplement for that.  The only problem is that berry vines, sumac and other intrusive plants like to compete with the blueberries.  So, this year I pulled and cut the intrusives back, put down some landscape fabric around the bushes and added a thick layer of woodchips on top.

The fireplace ash is a good idea.  I'm going to start adding ours to the garden to see what kind of effect it has on pH.

WRT pine needles, I cut up our Christmas tree every year and add it to the bedding under our rhododendrons.  Seems to work fine.

Good thread.

Doug

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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aging chicken manure

Doug, how many droppings are in the straw from the chicken coop? I'd be careful with using chicken manure unless you let it sit for a year - it can burn the crops. Horse and cow manure do not need to age before working them into the soil but chicken poop needs to sit a while. My nextdoor neighbors had chickens and we got all the free manure we wanted, but it killed plants unless we aged it!

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
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I'll till in chicken manure

even though its "hot" ie. fresh, in the fall. plant a cereal cover crop for even more organic madder, graze sheep on the cereal(wheat,barley,oats,rye) the spring tillage(chisel plow) finds the chicken $#!T fully decomposed and even high nitro feeders like brassicas and corn flourish. robie, husband,father,farmer,optometrist

Doug's picture
Doug
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chicken poop

I've been using the bedding straw from our chicken coop for a couple years  with no problems, and some significant benefits.  I don't use it full strength anywhere, but when mixed with the straw I use it in places where it will overwinter, or on top of cardboard around young fruit trees, etc. so it's strength is diluted.  I clean the coop weekly and spread quite a bit of straw on the floor and in nesting boxes, so the concentration never gets too great.

Doug

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Full Moon
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Burn it off

  The big garden I burn off  hoping to  get some of the weed seeds  from  planting themselves ,  Then  put on the Manure  from the horses , cows and chickens .  Next spring I will till it in .

 As for the raised beds I have carrots , beets and strawberries muched with  wheat straw .

 In the cold frames I have spinach and lettuce  growing

 Robie , I got a decent crop of  corn  from your Heiroom seeds  even though the weather was  not  good I kept it watered . What was the name of it ?  I am keeping some back to use for next years planting .

 FM

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