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Winter Safeguards for Your Garden

Now that you have harvested all of your veggies, gardening is over, right? Wrong. Now we start preparing our beds for next year’s harvest. Preparing your garden to go through winter will make it easier to plant next year’s crops.

When all is harvested from the garden, you can do one of two things. The first is to pull the plants for composting and plant a cover crop. The other option is to leave the plants where they are, crushing them to the ground – without putting too much pressure on the soil so you don’t compact it – then cover the area with green manure (manure that hasn’t been composted).

If you plant a cover crop, it will shade the ground. This will keep many cool-weather weeds from germinating. You don’t have to plant all of your garden area with the cover crop at the same time; you can plant the rows or beds as they become available. For your cover crop you can use rye, red clover, hairy vetch, buckwheat, or cowpeas. In the spring you will till this ground cover into the soil.

If you choose to tramp plants and cover with manure, cover the rows or beds with a layer of mulch about a foot deep afterward. This will break down through the winter and make rich soil for next year’s veggies. In raised beds, if you haven’t added worms, you should get some worms from the bait shop or Wal-mart. They will loosen and aerate the soil. Their waste products are organic fertilizer too. Next spring you will turn the soil over and plant your veggies in ground that is aerated and rich with organic matter.


Perennial plants and shrubs have to be prepared for winter. Doing this too early will cause them to sprout new growth that will not live through the winter and may cause loss of plants. Allow them to go dormant and winterize in late fall – late October into November.

If you are looking for fall color in your garden, you may want to plant some late-blooming perennials. Chrysanthemums have a variety of colors and are popular for fall displays. Other perennials with fall color are Echinacea, Russian sage, bugbane, autumn monkshood, rudbeckia, fall asters, and toad lilies.

Early fall chores:

Dividing or Moving Perennials:

Autumn is a good time to divide plants or move them, saving time and chores for next spring. Cool, moist weather is ideal for perennial roots to become well established – even in the coldest regions. There is a guideline for moving and dividing your perennials.

John’s Rule-of-Thumb [2] for when to move or divide perennials:

There are exceptions to the rule:

Rules are meant to be broken, so break the rules and see what happens. Remember that if you move or divide a large, bushy plant, always cut back foliage by at least half to prevent serious wilting. Keep the leaf mass in proportion to the reduced number of roots.

After Second Hard Frost:

A big difference is made in the garden after a couple hard frosts. Some perennials go dormant; others hang on until late fall. What is beautiful in winter is a matter of opinion, and only you can decide what looks good in your yard. Here are a few ideas to consider.


These steps will help keep your garden safe and sound through the winter, ready to flower and produce again come spring. Happy gardening!

©2011 Off the Grid News