A Home Gardener’s Guide to Preparing for Winter

The signs of fall are ramping up, with shorter days and colder nights. As trees drop their leaves and prepare for the cold, so too do your beans, peppers, apples and melons. While these plants gave you a good harvest during the summer months, you realize you have to start anew and plant new crops.

For plants to survive the chilly fall and near freezing winter, most must be planted in the summer from seed. That’s not to say late game gardening is impossible, though.. Underground bulbs that flower in the spring, like daffodils and tulips, will still grow in the spring even if planted in mid fall. It’s completely possible to plant hearty greens to harvest in winter and spring like kale, broccoli, cabbage and collards, depending on the date of your first frost. Most planting guides won’t specify a specific date, but instead instruct to plant a certain number of weeks before your region’s first frost.

Joanna Wolfe, a long time home gardener and expert on herbal medicine, runs a home garden and plants and harvests in all four seasons. “During fall you have a few options: you can shut everything down, prepare for the winter, or you can plant more seeds.” She suggests that along with greens like kale, “now is the time to plant the trees you want sprouting next year.”

If you’ve decided that your home gardening season is over, your summer and fall harvest has been picked and your flowers pruning themselves, you can prepare your planters for the winter and close up shop. Make sure to clean up dead plants, pull roots, and generally refresh your soil for the year. Adding some mulch or compost will protect your soil during the winter months. This will also let your soil absorb the nutrients from the compost over the next few months. Another common practice is to cover your raised beds with black plastic or tarps, to prevent any growth of weeds that could occur when you aren’t tending your garden.

There are a lot of ways you can go, depending on your preferred crops, yard layout, and level of dedication to your garden. Any way you do it, you’ll be ready for winter.

My year-round garden, right before the summer harvest. Photo By Will Nolan.

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