Your garden has been a wonder! It has sprouted, grown up and offered you a bounty of food for the coming months. Now is the time to clean and tidy it up for the winter and to prepare it for next spring’s growing season.
What you do now can dramatically increase your yields in the next season! Follow these three simple guidelines to keep your kitchen garden healthy.
Remove the plants and weeds from your garden. Compost any plant material that was healthy and dispose or burn anything that is diseased.
Anything that has gone to seed should also be separated if you wish to prevent it from growing where you compost. If you are unable to burn, bag it as you would the leaves and garden clippings and add it to your curbside pickup.
How much plant matter you leave in the garden is a personal choice, but be sure to remove all the weeds, heavier stalks and diseased and bug infested material.
Work and turn the soil and remaining plant matter with a tiller, shovel, or rake. Your rake can be helpful to remove any remaining stalks and roots in the soil.
Loosening and moving the soil around now will help it aerate, dry out and drain which will give you a head start in your spring preparations- your beds will be ready for planting!
If you feel your plants could have grown better this season or they were struggling- consider testing your soil with a pH kit or a NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) kit to determine a potential deficiency.
Amending or adding compost to your beds is a way of feeding your soil so that it may feed you! Have your soil clean and tilled before applying compost. Then spread on compost, manure, straw, raked leaves or other organic material. Make sure to have a minimum of 4″ up to 6″ of compost spread over the entire garden. The compost will break down over winter and feed your garden soil throughout the growing season.
Planting a cover crop is a more advanced way to feed your soil that is also highly beneficial. Cover crops are planted 30 days before the first frost and turned under in the spring just after flowering. Cover crops are grown quite thickly and chokes out most of the weeds that try to pop up in the spring. Some common cover crops are clover, alfalfa, rye, hairy vetch.
Putting your garden to sleep for the winter may take a weekend of chores, but the benefits will last you through to next year’s harvest!