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The Well-Worth-It Fall Garden Prep

Fall Garden

Photo Credit: Flickr/Micky Zlimen

The Well-Worth-It Fall Garden Prep

By Carolyn Hauck on September 22, 2015

Properly preparing your garden for fall and winter tidies up your yard, but more importantly, prepares the soil for spring planting. Well worth the small investment in time and money, the little you do now and in late fall, the more benefits you’ll reap in the spring.

The veggie garden

JustAnswer Expert Martin outlined the basics of the winter veggie garden prep for us: “Once your garden has finished producing in the fall, pull out the plants. Don’t worry about leaving a root or two, as these will continue to break down in the winter, leaving minerals behind for your soil. Gently till the topsoil to loosen any bugs that could stick around and infest the soil.

After you’ve removed plants and tilled your soil it’s time to add compost. Either add your own if you have a compost pile or purchase a few bags, you only need a small layer. This will give all those earthworms something to do over the winter. Unlike spring, you don’t stop at compost, next comes the mulch. Mulch prevents rain from leaching minerals from the soil and soil from compacting. It also stops weed growth. Straw has been the go-to mulch for many years, but more and more gardeners are beginning to rely of wood-chip mulches, as wood rebuilds the soil with needed microbes and fungi as it decomposes.

An alternative to mulch is a cover crop. Cover crops build your soil’s nutrients over the cold winter months and keep weeds from taking root. The most popular cover crops are buckwheat and red clover. Come spring, you simply till the cover crop back into the soil and let it decompose.

Lastly, you can also plant things in the legume family (like beans) to regenerate the nitrogen reserve for spring planting. If you want a few crops over the winter, you can still plant things like greens or stalk plants like broccoli, however, these do best in a hoop garden (using PVC piping and frost blankets) to keep them warm and to keep the bugs out.”

Perennials, roses and shrubs

The rest of your backyard or garden will benefit from mulching as well. If you live in really cold climates, consider covering shrubs with burlap screens or shade cloth to protect them from frost and to keep them from blackening.

For roses, old mulch should be removed in fall. Wait until the first freeze and then add new wood chip mulch. If you live in really cold climates you will probably need to enclose your roses with metal or wood frames, and then fill the frames with new mulch.

Talk to an Expert

We’ve outlined a few essentials here, but the fun thing about gardening is that every gardener has different ideas and preferences about what’s best for their garden. Experts are here to help you decide or explain steps more in-depth for your personal garden or backyard.