Sunday, November 4, 2012

Prepare Vegetable Gardens For Winter

Halloween is over and it is time to put our vegetable gardens to bed. This is mostly a matter of cleaning up, covering up, raking up, and gathering all of those wonderful leaves for compost. Plants that are not killed outright should be prepared for dormancy. One of the first things one must do is clear out the blackened stems and foliage of annual veggies and flowers. This prevents the possibility that disease, bugs, eggs, pathogens or icky stuff will sleep in your soil over the winter. 
Consider this a good time to make any necessary repairs to your beds and boxes. As I still live in an apartment, I do not have to worry about this too much. 
While it appears as if all activity in the garden has stopped, there's a lot going on under the soil until it freezes. Newly transplanted trees and shrubs, divisions of perennials, and hardy bulbs are all growing roots, drawing on soil nutrients and moisture around them. Earthworms and various microbes in the soil are still processing the organic material they're finding. Most likely, the organic mulch you spread to protect the soil during the summer months has substantially decomposed. It's important to spread new mulch now -- a thicker winter layer -- to protect plants and soil over the winter months. The idea is not so much to keep the soil warm as it is to keep the temperature even. Once the soil is frozen, mulch keeps it frozen. So if you have shade trees, convert the fallen leaves to mulch and use it throughout your property.