The good news is that preparing your garden for winter actually involves very little work. No need to do a big clean-up of your vegetable garden or flower beds!
Why not? Simply because when you work your soil less and let organic materials decompose, it’s better for the soil, insects, birds and small animals which all have essential roles to play in the ecosystem. You'll even prevent weeds from growing next spring!
Here are a few tips to help you get your garden ready before the first frost.
Do some light weeding and aerate the soil
Once your annuals (flowers or vegetables) have died, you can cut off their stems with pruning shears and leave the roots and a few branches, leaves or wilted flowers on the ground. This organic material will decompose into the ground and will serve as a natural fertilizer for the next gardening season. It’s an environmentally- and budget-friendly way to feed the organisms living there!
Then, you can lightly aerate the soil using a weeder. But be careful not to stir the soil up too much: you don’t want to throw off the balance in the top layer of soil; it’s very rich and promotes the health and growth of your vegetables, herbs and flowers.
Prune and protect perennials, trees and shrubs
To make sure your plants’ branches aren’t weighed down by snow and break, cut a few branches off before the first frost, or after they’ve lost their leaves. Then, tie up the remaining branches with twine. You can also protect young or fragile plants using snow fencing.
Don’t forget to keep any organic materials (branches, leaves, flowers) for your compost, or to make homemade mulch!
Enrich the soil
To make sure your soil is rich in nutrients next spring, think about applying compost, manure or fertilizer and mix it up very delicately with the top layer of soil in your vegetable garden or flower beds. Leave depth to the great philosophers and stick to the surface: compost should be incorporated into the top 10 to 15 centimetres. Coarse compost can even be used as mulch.1
The most important step when closing down your garden for winter is definitely a good layer of mulch to cover the soil. This will protect your perennials’ roots, make sure the soil doesn’t compact under the weight of the snow and help to maintain a good level of moisture. Mulch also helps to prevent weeds from showing up in the spring.
Normally, it’s recommended that you apply mulch at least 5 to 7 centimetres thick. An easy way to do this is to use dead leaves that have fallen from your trees. In addition to protecting your soil, they’ll feed the earth in the spring when they decompose. You can also use other organic materials like compost, straw, hay or ramial chipped wood to create your mulch.
Start thinking about spring…
Fall is also the time to plant garlic and ornamental flower bulbs, like tulips! Read our article Replanting tulip bulbs for our tips!