Hey, we’re pretty tuckered out when the summer and fall vegetable gardening season wraps up. Yet, if we want to have the same success next season, we still have work to do. Just a few gardening chores now can make all the difference when planting time rolls around next year.
Out with the Old
It’s easiest to wait until the vegetable plants die down in fall or early winter and clear them out all at one time, rather than yanking them out one-by-one as they die off. Make sure you bag them up well or compost them. Getting rid of the old, dead plants removes a safe harbor for pests and disease organism over the winter.
Prepare the Soil
When putting your vegetable garden to bed for the winter, think about the soil. Add ammonium sulfate, about 1 pound per 1,000 square feet, to the garden soil and mix it to a depth of 12 inches.
If you have heavy soil, use winter to help amend it. Dig in a 4- inch layer of compost and an equal amount of shredded bark. Mix it down to a depth f 6 inches then rake it smooth. On top of this, add a 4-inch layer of wood chips.
Don’t mix the chips into the soil – allow them to remain on the surface over the winter. They will break down and be ready to dig into the soil in spring. When the ground thaws in spring add your compost or manure and plow in the amendments and what’s left of the wood chips. Your soil should be nice and loose and full of nutrients.
To Cover or not to Cover?
If you’re concerned about soil erosion over the winter, consider planting a cover crop, such as winter rye. Cover crops do more than just control erosion; they revitalize the vegetable garden’s soil when plowed into it in the spring. Plan on getting the cover crop planted around the time of the first frost in your area.
After you’ve cleared out the old vegetable plants, rake the soil until it’s smooth. Spread 3 ounces of winter rye seeds per 100 square feet and run the rake over the area so the seeds are slightly buried. Water carefully to avoid washing away the seeds.
Putting the vegetable garden to bed for winter is probably not something you look forward to, but it pays off in big dividends in spring.