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Winter Transition in the Garden
How-To Prepare your Garden in Winter for the BEST Spring EVER
IT’S OFFICIALLY WINTER. Days are getting longer now - I LOVE THIS TIME OF YEAR. If you still have dead summer plants in your garden, don’t fret.
Here in the Pacific NW we've had the good fortune of a relatively mild autumn. You can still do a bit of work on nicer days and prep yourself for spring. Better late than never, as they say.
A winter garden transition essentially rids the beds of any lingering summer crops and any plants that will not over winter.
In their place, it is best to cover and protect the soil. You can do this by ...mulching - adding a layer of autumnal leaves or a sack burlap directly over your soil. Sowing cover crop will also generate a green mulch - one that you can chop into the soil for green compost next spring. Choose a cover crop mix (often sold in bulk at small nurseries) of cereal (rye, barley), vetch and favas. (If you’re just getting to this now, you’ll probably have to order online.)
Below, I have a few bullet pointed items for winter transition. If you like them well enough, let me know in the comments and I can expand the section to include your landscape plants, trees and shrubs. (Or maybe even your rosemary and sage bushes that are out of control??)
- It's a bit late to plant garlic, but would I try it? Yes, I’d try it. Plant single cloves about 6 to 8 inches apart, and push them (tips up) about 2 inches below the surface.
- Compost flower head seeds and save the seed if so inclined. Work methodically, as seeds are easily dropped and it is NO fun weeding out 100s of borage plants in February, trust me on this!
- Remove all of your annual plants and compost them.
- Cut back perennial plants like thyme, sage and oregano. As leaves dull and brown, you can trim off their woody stalks at the ground. Take care not to cut off any new shoots - those will put on slow growth through the season.
- Remove all summer crops from the beds - Don’t leave tomatoes and other plants dying and decaying on the soil. 1) It can invite disease and 2) they will drop seed, forcing you to spend a LOT of time weeding in March. Nobody LIKES to weed!
- Mulch strawberry plants with a covering of dry hay. Sprinkle a layer directly over the strawberries, but no more than a few inches deep, which can smother plants. If you can’t find hay, cover beds with dead leave, or felled tree branches.
- Cut back any dead raspberry canes. Dead canes are those that have fruited and/or have brown, brittle canes. Thin remaining canes (choosing the thickest and strongest) so there is one every 6-inches, leaving them room for them to grow in and receive sun. Lastly, you must tip or trim the canes, using sharp pruners, to about 4 or 5 feet in height.
- Mulch all overwintering vegetable garden beds with dry leaves or hay, being careful to leave a bit of space around the stem of each plant.