Let’s talk winterizing your garden beds. Welcome and happy first day of spring peeps! (Did I miss the “Google Doodle”? I didn’t see one for this year…) Gosh, you wouldn’t know it here, as it was 29 degrees(!) when I woke up. Wow…that’s pretty cold for the Southeast this time of year? Sometimes the calendar will be telling you one thing, but the weather will be telling you another, and as a gardener, you must plan accordingly. I know I am.
When spring is not quite here and you plant too early, what now? I’ll talk about that, too. We started planting seeds on March 6th during a “warm streak” when it got up to almost 80 degrees the last few days of February, and my neighbor’s Bradford pear tree (a non fruit bearing variety) was in full bloom and bumblebees were buzzing around. That had to be a first. I can’t imagine seeing bees (and pollen) in February. but there it was.
We got the itch to get started to replenish the soil that had sunken in during the cold times, and start planting seeds. These were microgreens – lettuce, endive, kale, things like that and radishes, which I’ve been told are resilient this time of year. There was even a little bit of growth (on the right image -can you tell?) !
Little did we know, but I suspected, a few cold snaps were right around the corner. A few days later it got down to 33 degrees F. Although there were signs of new growth we didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves.
I don’t know exactly when I got started, but sometime after late fall, John and I brought in our few remaining container plants – a bell pepper, cherry tomato, and a few citronellas….Interstingly enough, we got a few more tommatoes before it finally croaked, or reacched the end of its life cycle, I should say.
The beds, on the other hand, when the chill set in this signalling the end of our harvest, was a signal to do the first thing when winterizing your garden beds: Clear out all the dead plants and weeds. , to make room for the next planting season come spring.
When hearing that there’d be another “cold snap” and get below freezing at night, we covered the part of the bed that we’d started planting in using a heavy duty outdoor tarp. John put metal stakes down in each corner to hold it in place. A few days ago, when it got nice and sunny during the day, with high temps in the 60s (the average for around here ) I’d remove the tarp to expose the tiny shoots to sun. At evening I then replaced it.
Depending on your stage of growth, and the size of your beds, you’ll want to do likewise. Cover your beds with a tarp…I’ve found that vinyl shower curtains come in handy if you don’t have adequate coverage. We’ve got starter pod seeds in multiple trays, too (about 5 total) and started keeping them indoors. They are starting to show a few little shoots, too, hope our luck continues.
Other steps for over-wintering your garden include:
1. Refer to your growing zone to get an idea of how much temps will drop, so you can plan accordingly. You can look up and find out what zone you live in through a quick search. I’m in zone 8B. This will serve as a guideline for appropriate steps to take. Everyone in different zones will have different tasks to undertake.There will always be discrepancies.
For my area, the benchmark for being “over the hump” as far as the last freezing temperatures, is after Easter. Even though the weather is crazy changeable, that’s what usually happens. I remember about 30 years ago we actually had a blizzard that took place this time of year. These days, I rarely if ever, (sadly) see snow – a little would be nice!
2. Cull out weeds, dead and spent plants from the previous season, including annuals (plants that only produce for one year/growing season)
3. Top-dress your garden beds with a layer of mulch, compost, leaves, etc., this will add more nutrients into the soil to be ready for the next big growing season, as well as add a layer of protection for the more mature soil and to discourage weeds.
4. Dry out all irrigation systems….In the fall I detached the sprinkler system and hose, and let all the backed-up water drain out naturally, and covered the outside faucet with one of those “faucet socks” to protect it in the wintertime.
5. Maintain your winter perennial (grows yearly) crops, if any. There are some crop plants that can still produce, depending on your zone…these include carrots, radishes, and greens like kale and lettuce. Root crops, especially, can still do well. But still keep an eye on them, and be ready to provide support structures, such as the tarps I mentioned earlier.
Hope this helps, and good luck to you as you put your plants “to bed”!