Gardening is a year round job even if you aren’t growing anything during the winter, and there are several things that you can do now to ensure that you have a healthy, productive growing season come spring.
Remove Dead Plants
Did the first freeze sneak up on you? If so, you might have a bunch of dead plants sitting in your once bountiful vegetable garden. Don’t just leave them there. Instead take the time to clean things up. Pull out the dead plants and pull up any hardy weeds. If your plants did not succumb to disease, they can be added to your compost pile. You will, however, want to avoid putting weeds in the compost. Till or break up the soil in your garden. This makes it less inviting for the bugs that might already be bedding down for winter. This will also make your soil easier to work with come spring.
Care for Your Compost
Speaking of compost, you can keep composting throughout the winter months. If your compost is almost finished, you may want to avoid adding new material to it. Instead, you can start a new pile or bin. You want to do this because it’s generally best to add finished compost to your garden. Finished compost does not have any recognizable items in it. If the compost is still breaking down when you add it to your garden, it might release too much nitrogen into the soil.
Most people recommend adding finished compost to your garden before your planting season. So, you will want to add compost to your garden during the early spring before you plant seeds or transplants. If you live in a warmer climate, you may want to add compost in late winter. Add three to four inches of compost to the soil and work it into the soil before planting. If you have a long growing season, you might want to add compost during the early fall as well before you start your fall and winter vegetables.
If you have a compost pile, you might want to consider putting a roof over it or covering during the winter months. This keeps the pile warm, which helps the bacteria continue to do its work.
Plan Your Plants
The cold, quiet months are a good time to think ahead. Would you like to grow something new this year? If so, how much will you grow? Where will you plant it? Winter is a good time to do your research. Will a certain variety of squash grow well in your area? When should you plant broccoli? Take the time to look for information like this when things are quiet.
You can also buy supplies during the winter. This should be part of your planning process. Did you break your favorite shovel? If so, take the time to find a new one. You might even be able to find good deals on gardening tools during the winter months. Winter is a good time to take stock of everything. Even if your shovel isn’t broken, it might be worn out. Replacing it now means that you won’t have to deal with a broken shovel during the busy planting season.
Several plants have very early growing seasons. Certain types of broccoli, for example, can be planted as early as February (depending on your area). It tolerates frost, and it is a cool weather plant. Granted, your ability to start spring crops in the winter will largely depend on where you live.
If you cannot get out and work the ground yet, you can still start seeds in your home. Depending on the plant, you will want to start your seeds several weeks before the last frost. You can look up the average date of the last frost in your area. Doing this gives you a longer harvest time since you’re lengthening your overall growing season. Different plants will have different indoor growing requirements. Make sure to do your research prior to starting seeds indoors.
So, even though your garden is dormant, it doesn’t mean that you have to be. There are several ways you can keep busy during the winter, and by doing so you will have a more productive and successful growing season.