Winter is coming…. Which means that you’ll need to begin preparing your garden for the colder months! It’s time to clean up and winterize your space so that you can get a head start when spring rolls around. As annual vegetables near the end of their lifespan and the weather begins to get cooler, reduce the amount of work you’ll have to put in in the spring by taking these steps to put your garden to bed.

1. Clean Up

Prepare your garden for the winter by cleaning it up. This means removing weeds, getting rid of debris, and turning the soil. Clean up rotting or finished plants. Additionally, place healthy debris in your compost pile. Be wary and make sure that you are checking for mildew, mold, and blight – compost doesn’t get warm enough to destroy disease and fungus! By removing this debris, you’ll get rid of garden pests that threaten to overtake your garden. Rake, tidy, and remove all dead plant material in order to freshen up your garden space.

2. Prepare Soil

First, test your soil. This will make you aware of what essential nutrients your soil is lacking. A good soil test tells you all of the essentials: pH levels, nutrients, organic matter, and the overall health of your soil. Pull some soil from a few different areas in your garden, mix them well, and send your sample to an extension office. You can also order an at-home kit, though these are not as accurate as official testing.
Once your results are back, prepare your soil carefully to replace the nutrients that are lacking. You can do this with a soil amendment, which will break down and renew the necessary nutrients to your soil. Then, add fertilizer or compost. Don’t forget to till the soil!

3. Plant Cover Crops

Cover crops provide ground protection and organic material to turn the soil with next year. The nutrients in these crops should be nitrogen-rich like clover, winter rye, and field peas or simple grass-like winter barley. To plant a cover crop, scatter the seed and cover them with a light raking.
Fertilize these plants just as you might with other plants and till your soil to loosen the top six inches. Plant your cover crop to allow for four weeks of growth before the cold weather comes along and in the spring, once the ground has dried, turn the cover crop under to allow organic matter to decompose. If you choose not to plant a cover crop, cover your soil with one to three inches of mulch to protect the soil from being washed away.

4. General Maintenance

Fall is also the time to take care of some general maintenance for your garden. This includes cleaning, sharpening, and oiling the blades in your garden tools. You should also wash seed trays and fix or replace any broken equipment that you will need in the year to come. Part of preparing your garden is making sure that you have all of the necessary ingredients to have the perfect Spring garden!

Once you’ve planned your garden, it’s also important to take the time to plan and prepare. Reflect on the year before and all of the successes and failures of your crop. Use the harvest that was yielded to determine how much you should plant of each vegetable in the coming year. Design your ideal garden for the year to come and consider contacting Topsoil Pros for all of your topsoil needs!