It was a hot summer to be sure, and if your garden was like many in the area, it may have gone a little “dormant” when the temperatures went through the roof. Once the normal weather returned, hopefully it woke up. The sad thing is now that your garden may have finally hit its stride, it will very quickly begin to shut down with the arrival of much cooler temperatures.
With the end in sight, we thought we would make winterizing your garden the first post in a new series of projects that many homeowners need to tackle this time of year. Once the series is finished, you’ll be able to download them all in one handy e-book that we hope you’ll read for yourself and share with your friends.
There are several steps involved in winterizing your garden. We’ll cover each one below.
Remove your summer plants
It seems obvious, but many people leave the plants to wither and die in the garden figuring that they won’t do any harm. For the most part, that may be true, but it does prevent you from being able to prepare and protect the soil for next year. Plus, you can add the plants to your compost pile so that next year’s garden will have a little of this year’s in it, as well.
Don’t have a compost pile? Well then, make sure you come back for the next post because that’s what we’ll be talking about.
Balance your soil’s pH
For the most part, soil in Virginia has a low pH. The best way to balance a lower pH soil is to add lime. You can add the powder or the pellets, but the pellets will tend to release more slowly over the course of the season and not run off if a big fall rain blows through shortly after you put it down.
In the rare instance that you’ve got sandy or loamy soil, you can add sulphur to your garden to lower it. Farmers used to taste their soil to see which way the pH was going, granted many of them didn’t know that’s what they were doing. If it had a soapy taste, they knew it had some lime in it. If it tasted sour or acidic, it was time to add lime. Of course, for the unpracticed tongue, it probably just tastes like dirt.
Plant a cover crop
In bare areas without any fall crops, it’s best to plant a cover crop. You can buy mixes in your garden store. Look for one that will add nitrogen to the soil and prevent runoff. You can add lime and cover crop seed at the same time and then gently rake them in. Come spring, you can simply till what’s left into the soil.
Protect it from the cold
Keeping weeds down and retaining moisture are critical during this time of year. If you have a few weeds now they’ll take over your garden in the spring. So once you take the time to get them out, keep them down and protect the soil from a harsh winter by putting down a layer of grass clippings, hay or fallen leaves. In the spring, this can all be turned under with the soil.
Following these steps will ensure that you start with healthy soil ready to provide you with one harvest after another in the spring. Let us know in the comments section if you’ve got a couple tricks that have worked for you in the past when it comes to winterizing your garden!