Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Get Your Garden Ready for Winter!

Although the claim has been made that 2015 is likely to be the hottest year ever recorded, things are starting to cool off now that December has hit. With December comes the official beginning of winter, and for many states in our largely temperate nation, this means the beginning of winter weather: from daily frosts to full-on snowstorms, depending on where you are.

So how will you take care of your garden during the long winter months? Well, we at communEATi are here to help you get your garden winter-ready so that when spring comes, your garden will be a little more orderly, healthy, and productive.

Typically, you’ll want to start getting your garden ready for winter right after the first frost has killed off most of your annual plants. If you’re unsure of when the frost is there to stay in your area, you can look up a Frost Dates Calculator by state through the Farmer’s Almanac website. If you live anywhere that gets frost, it’s important to put your garden “to bed.”

Putting Your Veggies to Bed
You can try to postpone the inevitable (winter, that is) in your garden for a while by covering your vegetables with old sheets or bedspreads on cold nights, but the declining light and chilly daytime temperatures will naturally bring plant growth to a halt.
  • -Leave carrots, garlic, horseradish, leeks, parsnips, radishes, and turnips in your garden for harvesting through the early winter.
    • -Mark the rows with tall stakes to find them in the snow.
    • -Cover with a heavy layer of mulch to keep the ground from thawing.
  • -Pull up tomato, squash, pea, and bean plants and any stakes.
    • -If they’re disease-free, compost them.
    • -If they’re diseased, burn them or discard separately.
  • -Remove all weeds and debris before the ground gets too hard.
  • -Gently till the soil to expose any insects who plan to overwinter.
  • -Add a layer of compost, leaves, and manure (if you have it) once most of the garden soil is exposed and till into the soil.

Preparing Your Herbs for Winter
  • -Sage and thyme are considered perennials, going dormant in the fall and reviving themselves by spring without special treatment for the winter.
  • -Rosemary needs to be sheltered outside (Zone 6) or brought in (Zones 5 and colder).
  • -Parsley can withstand a light frost but should be covered at night in Zones 5 or colder.
  • -Dig up a clump of chives and pot, letting the foliage die down and freeze for several weeks. Bring the pot inside to a sunny, cool spot; water well to harvest throughout winter.

Winterizing Your Perennials and Flowers
A perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. It’s important to water your perennials and flowering shrubs in the fall to ensure a good winter.
  • -Once the ground has frozen, cut your perennials back to 3” and mulch them with a thick layer of leaves or straw.
  • -If putting in a new flower bed next spring, cover the area with mulch or heavy plastic.
  • -Before a heavy snowfall, cover pachysandra with a mulch of pine needles.
  • -Move potted chrysanthemums to a sheltered spot when their flowers fade. Water well and cover with a thick layer of straw.
  • -When the leaves of dahlias, gladioli, and cannas are blackened by frost, carefully dig them up and let them dry indoors on newspaper for a few days. Then pack in Styrofoam peanuts, dry peat moss, or shredded newspaper and store in a dark, humid spot at 40-50℉ until spring.

Garden Odds and Ends
In addition to your garden, you’ll need to prepare your gardening tools for winter.
  • -Empty all of your outdoor containers and store them upside down.
  • -Hang a bucket on a hook in your tool shed or garage and use it to store hose nozzles and sprinkler attachments.
  • -Run your garden hose up over a railing to remove all the water; roll it up and put it away.
  • -Cover your compost pile with plastic or a thick layer of straw before snow falls.
  • -Drain the fuel tank on your lawn mower and any other power equipment.
  • -Scrub down and put away your tools. You can also oil your tools to avoid rust.

By taking the steps to bed your garden and care for your tools before winter, you can ensure a healthier and more fruitful garden. And for more tips on gardening throughout the winter, yummy recipes, and other homegrown topics, be sure to stay up-to-date with our blog and follow communEATi on Facebook and Twitter!

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