It’s time to put the garden to bed for winter. In part, at least. We’ve talked a little about the hardy brassicas, which are unfazed by the short, wet and cold days of winter, and will even withstand light frosts. Similarly, cool season root vegetables (we currently have carrots, beets, and radishes) are still looking happy and producing well.
But as the rest of the summer stars are waning and in decay, there is work to be done! The garden elves were busy this week pulling, weeding, piling, and preparing for the planting of cover crops.
In years past, we’ve attempted to take advantage of mild winters and grow for the kitchen year-round. After some trial and error, it became clear that using the off season to rebuild and replenish the soil rewards us with a more productive spring and summer garden.
Our winter scheme includes compost and cover crops. I find that one of the most significant lessons that the garden offers is about waste—being aware of the efforts of growing means more thoughtful harvesting and use (and finding unique ways to preserve any surplus), and also that the spent vegetation, weeds, and leaf litter are not refuse at all but FUEL for the compost pile! (More on our “black gold” and compost program here.)
Here are some recommendations for preparing your winter garden in our particular micro-clime (from a wonderful gardener resource, igrowsonoma.org):
- Clean up fallen fruit
- Mulch perennials
- Start compost piles
- Plant cover crops such as fava beans, garlic, and shallots
Other suggestions, (from Colorado State University Cooperative Extension)
- Pull up old vines and vegetable plants (Insect pests that feed on these plants during summer and fall often lay eggs on the old plants. If the vines are left on the soil surface, insect eggs will survive the winter and hatch in the spring)
- If they are not diseased, you can work old plants back into the garden soil. This adds valuable organic matter to the soil and, at the same time, destroys insects and their eggs.
- In addition to garden debris, other organic material may be added to the soil in fall. You can use well-rotted manure, compost, peat or leaves. Soil micro-organisms and beneficial soil insects will help incorporate these materials into the soil before the next growing season.
Then, the garden will be all tucked in for a sweet winter’s sleep.
How do you prepare your garden for winter in Sonoma County?
Happy growing (and eating) to you!!