I spent some time earlier this week pulling the tomato plants that weren’t producing any more. There are still four plants giving it their all, so I left them in the ground and pruned them so that all their energy will go to the branches that are still producing. The photo below is my one Roma plant that still has potential. It’s sad-looking, but it’s not giving up; So neither will I.
Eventually though, I'll have to put the entire garden to bed for the winter.
There are lots of things you can do to put your garden to bed for the winter, and avid gardeners will take lots of time and many steps to accomplish that. However, if you have a small kitchen garden and not a lot of time, you might want an easier solution. Still, you don’t want to just leave everything dying in the garden all winter long — it will make next year’s gardening that much more difficult.
Here are five basic steps you can take to put your vegetable garden to bed for the winter.
- Clean out all the annuals. Any plant that isn’t going to come back next year needs to be pulled out by the roots and disposed of. Once they’ve stopped producing altogether, get them out of there.
- Cut back perennials. Many herbs (and some vegetables) will come back year after year. Cut them to about 2 inches above soil level once they’ve completely gone to seed and are no longer producing usable leaves.
- Compost all disease-free materials. Use all of the plant materials from this year’s garden to help nourish next year’s garden. Add raked leaves to the compost pile, too.
- Turn your soil. Turning the soil will help eliminate some pest problems next spring. Any grubs or eggs from undesirable insects will be broken up, brought to the surface and feed the birds this fall.
- Plant a cover crop. Planting a cover crop is easy. Oats and buckwheat or winter rye get scattered over the garden, covered with a light layer of soil and watered if needed. The cover will crop will die during the first hard frost and stay on your garden to protect it from weeds until you turn it under in the spring. Check out this video about how to plant a cover crop for more specific information.
Also on MNN: Want to keep gardening this fall? Here's help: