Winterizing Your Garden

By Mark J. Donovan

August 20, 2014 3 min read

When the leaves have turned color and are beginning to fall off the trees, it is time to prepare your garden to ensure a healthy yard next year.

Start winterizing your garden by removing the dead plant remnants from this year's garden. Dig up all of the plants, including their root systems and either remove them entirely or pile them on top of the garden.

Ideally, it is best to remove them and to put them in a compost pile. Leaving old crop debris creates a haven for rodents and insects. Also, if the plants are diseased, it is important to remove them from the garden to prevent next year's garden from becoming infected as well.

If you decide to leave the plant remnants in the garden, dry them out and till them into the soil in late fall or early spring with some of the fallen leaves from your trees. By tilling the fallen leaves into the soil in the fall, your yard will absorb some nutrients. Leaving them on top of the garden and waiting until spring to till them in retards the absorption of the nutrients and delays the warming of the garden soil in the spring.

Do not put fertilizer on your garden in the fall. It is bad for the environment. and it is a waste of your money. Without the garden plants there is nothing to absorb the fertilizer. Consequently it washes away causing harm to creeks and wetlands. Save your money and apply the fertilizer in the springtime.

If you are inclined to add a chemical to your garden in the fall time, check the pH level of your soil and see if you should add lime or sulfur. Fall is an excellent time of the year to add these chemicals. Simply spread them on the garden soil and till.

Tilling your garden in the fall time is helpful in several other ways. It helps destroy any insect larvae in the soil. Also the thawing and freezing of the soil that occurs during the winter and spring breaks down dirt clogs and ensures a smoother soil for planting in the springtime.

Planting rye grass or another cover crop is a good idea to prevent erosion and improve your garden's soil. Simply broadcast it and rake it into the soil per the manufacturer's recommended levels. However, if you do decide to plant a cover crop, you should do it earlier in the autumn season, typically before the leaves begin to fall off the trees. In spring, till the cover crop over about one or two weeks before you plan to plant so that the cover crop plant material has time to decompose.

With these few garden winterizing tips, your garden will be prepared for another great planting in the spring.

Mark J. Donovan's website is at

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