Preparing a Vegetable Garden for Winter

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To prepare a vegetable garden for winter, you’ll want to do a great cleanup job in the fall. This garden care will make it easier to start the new growing season in the spring.

You may be tempted to skip some of these last-minute chores, but they’re worth doing because they can make a big difference to the success of next year’s garden. While these tasks can be put off until the start of the growing season, you can expect to be busy with the vegetable garden in the spring. You’ll find it useful to have some of the work out of the way ahead of time.

As you finish harvesting crops and rows of garden space become available, it’s a good idea to plant a cover crop, or green manure, as part of your preparation for the following year. This is a crop that you don’t intend to harvest. It’s simply to provide protection for the soil underneath. When you prepare for your spring planting, you dig the whole crop into the soil. A cover crop will keep your precious topsoil from blowing or washing away, and tilling it into the soil in the spring will provide valuable organic matter to enrich the soil.

The cover crop will also shade the soil, preventing many cool-season weeds from germinating. It’s not necessary to plant the whole cover crop at one time to cover the entire garden; you can plant in each area of the garden as space becomes available.

Cover crops are not exclusively used over the winter. If you have a space in the garden that will be vacant for several weeks between plantings, a summer cover of buckwheat makes an ideal green manure. The buckwheat germinates quickly and covers the soil, preventing summer weeds from germinating. It’s hollow-stemmed and easy to turn into the soil when you plant your next vegetable.

Vegetable Garden Cover Crop Types

Variety Season to Grow
Amount of Seed/ 1000 Sq. Ft.
Rye
Winter
1 to 2 lbs.
Crimson Clover
Winter
1 lb.
Soybeans
Summer
3 to 5 lbs.
Hairy Vetch
Winter
3/4 to 11/2 lbs.
Winter Wheat
Winter
1 to 2 lbs.
Buckwheat
Summer
2 to 3 lbs.
Rape
Winter
2 to 5 oz.
Cowpeas
Summer
3 to 4 lbs.

As an alternative to planting a cover crop, you can prepare the vegetable soil ahead of time. Tilling your soil in the fall can save you a great deal of time and help you get an earlier start in the spring because the soil is often too wet in early spring to use a spade or a rototiller. If you do till your soil in the fall, make sure to cover it with mulch to keep it from blowing away and to prevent massive winter weed germination. Consider soil preparation for the area of your garden where you plan to grow next season’s cool-season vegetables.

If you’re growing perennial vegetables, fall is the time to prepare them for winter survival. Remove old stems and foliage that have been killed back by frost to prevent the spread of disease organisms and insects that winter on old debris.

In cold climates, perennial vegetables should be protected with a blanket of mulch to prevent root damage from extreme cold temperatures. In mild climates, a coating of mulch will protect plants from the alternating freeze-and-thaw and prevent plants from heaving from the soil.

18 thoughts on “Preparing a Vegetable Garden for Winter

  1. Right on …Buckwheat ..Not practical for small space gardens

    Today, in the morning earlier, just turned up with fork a patch of ready ground for vegies, as winter is just gone, and spring just arrived…Yayyyy, will be my patch for lebanese zoukiny’s, cucumbers and parsnip

    • no, that’s a bit much lol sheesh but am thinking of doing truck garden next summer for cash flow, hauling my goods to the city … ah capitalism *cackles*

      • Like the old saying…IF YOU GOT IT FLAUNT IT …LOL
        Well, not bad idea..Ya got the space , use it.. Become an capitalist for the sake of surviving :)

      • feed them some healthy stuff for reasonable price. we’re getting rid of old brood cows :(, so have space … i am not going to be there, i already told him. at least they are getting sold as breeders not to slaughter. from now on calves and feeders. had 12 calves this year from cows, which wasn’t really their fault, the bull injured his equipment and got late start lol

  2. My old neighbor and still my best friend, does just that …Buys calves and feeders, 6 months later sold for slaughter, before all the expenses of maintenance comes in..Same with lambs….Good living.

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  4. Pingback: Continue Fall vegetable planting in November for Winter harvest | Orange County Breeze

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