12 Things You MUST Do to Prep the Garden for Winter

by | Nov 7, 2020 | Grow

Putting your garden to bed for the winter is very valuable. It can save you time, energy, and equipment come spring. If you prepare your garden properly in the fall, you can jump right into planting season come spring.

A view of a garden with mountains in the background.

Why Prep the Garden for Winter?

Whether you clean the garden up for the year in the fall or wait until spring may not seem like a big deal. But there are a few reasons why it’s not only smart, but prudent to put the garden to bed BEFORE winter hits.

  1. It preserves tools so they don’t get damaged during the winter weather.
  2. Leaves everything organized and ready to go come spring.
  3. Gives you a head start in the spring and able to get into the garden earlier.

Clear Equipment, Tools & Supplies

The first thing to do when putting the garden to bed for winter is to walk through, pick up and put away all equipment, tools and other supplies.

This includes sprinkler systems, hoses, tools, tarps or plastic row coverings, or any other materials used in the garden that won’t compost.

A sprinkler system in a garden covered with fall leaves.

Clean and Put Away Sprinklers and Hoses

The first thing we pick up and put away in our garden are all the parts to our Dan Microsystem. It has many individual pieces that can easily break if we’re trying to move around and clear things out, so it’s best to have it up and out of the way.

We don’t just put them away dirty, but we hose them off and make sure they’re emptied of all water before putting into the shed for the winter.

After the delicate pieces are all put away, we empty our hoses and wrap them up to get out of the weather for winter storage.

We do, however, leave out our larger irrigation system, but we make certain all hoses are emptied from any remaining water so there will be no damage from water freezing and defrosting over the winter.

A man removing the plastic covering from a hoop house.

Store Away Plastic Sheeting

Next, we take off the plastic covering for our DIY hoop house. Because we get a lot of snow, if we leave it out it’ll be ruined come next spring and I’ll need to buy a new one.

This is also good if you have any row coverings, greenhouse buckets, or plant frost protector bags that you’ve used to help extend the season.

It’s also a great time to pull up and store away any tomato cages or other garden accessories that may not winter well.

A man cutting twine away from the metal frame of a hoop house.

Remove Twine & Crop Identifiers

Because we trellis our tomatoes and other crops with jute twine, it’s a good time to go in and cut away the twine so it’s gone and out of the way.

The nice thing about using jute is that it’s completely compostable, so I don’t even need to untie it from the plant, I just cut away the twine from the hoop house, then cut the plant away at the ground, and toss the whole thing into the compost pile.

A man cutting back dead crops in the garden.

Cut Away Plants at Ground Level

I like to cut away any remaining plants at the ground, leaving the roots in.

The only thing I remove with the roots are weeds. You don’t want weeds returning in the spring!

But leaving in the roots from your crops means the plant matter will decompose under the surface of your soil and feed next year’s garden.

A man and his son spreading compost on a garden row using a BCS tractor.

Amend the Soil

Next, we amend the soil. There are a few options for doing this.

  1. Pull the mulch aside, add compost and put the mulch back.

Our mulch has broken down quite well over the year, so I’m just going to compost right over the top of it and it will continue to decompose over the winter.

Typically, I like to mulch again over the compost, but as I’ve gotten our beds established, just using a compost as that protective layer will be sufficient.

If you’re still building your soil up, you may want to consider adding compost and then mulch.

2. Our BCS compost spreader is a great tool to help spread the compost evenly. This works nicely for us because we have multiple 65-foot rows that we’re composting.

But if you don’t have 65-foot rows like we do, spreading compost by hand will work just fine.

A man shoveling compost onto a garden row.

We do spread compost by hand inside our hoop house.

If you watch the video above, you’ll also notice that our mulch didn’t break down as much in the tunnel as it did where it got direct weather.

So before adding the compost in our hoop house, we’ll pull back the majority of the mulch, then layer on the compost.

Watch this video for more ideas and ways to mulch the garden.

If you have any plants in the ground that you’re hoping to winter over, it’s a smart idea to add mulch to those to give them an extra blanket from the winter cold.

Keeping mulch covering your walkways will help keep the weeds down come spring, will help retain moisture, will diminish the effects of compaction as you’re walking through the garden, but it will also allow you to get out into your garden earlier in the spring because it won’t be a muddy mess!

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