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The Home Depot

How to Prepare your Garden for the Winter

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Landscaping > How to Prepare your Garden for the Winter
How to Prepare your Garden for the Winter

It’s never a good idea to till all of your once-alive, old summer vegetable plants under the soil in fall and forget about your garden until spring. By taking that route you’re leaving your soil unprotected to anything that Mother Nature throws its way during brutal winter conditions.


There’s a better method in putting your bed to bed. Let’s explore some techniques taken right from the organic farmer’s playbook to shield the all-important soil.

  1. Autumn is the time when you can find out a lot about your soil. You want to test it for its nutrient and pH level.

    1.Keep Things Alive

    There are certain plants that are part of the brassica family. These vegetables include crops like brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, radishes and kale. By leaving them in the ground until a few weeks before planting time, you’re going to be enticing certain types of pests to hang around. Once spring has sprung, these kids of plants release cyanide compounds. Those toxins won’t hurt you, but they will destroy insects like wireworms. Same procedure holds when you’re dealing with the flower garden.

  2. 2.Cover Crops

    By planting cover crops in late summer, you’re not only protecting your soil from any harshness in the winter, you’re doing another thing. You are keeping microbes in the soil active during the colder months. Cereal rye is ideal for this process. You’re ultimately going to till the cover crops into the ground, which adds more organic materials to the bed. Just make sure you do this before they go to seed.


    While your garden is still producing the yearly bounty, start seeding the cover crops. As the summer plants are winding down, the cereal rye is just getting started.


    Simply, but gently rake the cereal rye into the soil. Or just broadcast them and let the rain handle the sprouting. Rule of thumb, have your cover crops in the ground about a month before the first frost.

  3. 3.Cover With Compost

    By taking your summer plants and chopping them up, you are creating the beginning stage of composting. Spread the debris on top of the soil. By breaking-up the stuff, you’re helping the left-overs better decompose.


    Basically, compost is fuel for the microbes in your soil. Whether you use what’s already on hand or purchase some hay or straw to spread-out on the soil, you’ll be augmenting the dirt.


    The best time to lay down this coat of protection is after the ground freezes. That way you’ll keep rodents from burrowing into and nesting in the soil. To be effective, you’re going to want at least 4-inches of organic material to use as winter mulch.

  5. 4.Other Considerations

    Autumn is the time when you can find out a lot about your soil. You want to test it for its nutrient and pH level. Fall is likewise the best time to amend your soil for spring planting.


    Organic materials need to have time to break-down. To prepare the soil, you can use other stuff like lime, blood meal, greensand, manure, cottonseed meal and bone meal. Make sure that whatever you add, test the soil to be positive that matters haven’t gone too far during the augmentation process.


    By taking care of your garden in autumn, the winter months give your soil time to adapt and adopt to the growing season. By following a few simple rules, when spring rolls in, your soil is healthy, well-fed and ready to accept any plant you might throw at it.

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