Freezing temperatures signal an end to most of the vegetables, fruits, and herbs in a typical garden. What to do with all of this newfound free time? There are a few things you can do to prepare your garden for the next growing season.
Recycle your leaves
Rake up the leaves that fall on your property (or get some from a neighbour). Leaves are an excellent soil amendment; they improve water retention and soil structure. If you’ve ever dug up a pile of decomposing leaves, you’ll notice that they’re full of earthworms–which are your garden’s best friends. Leaves also foster microorganisms that are beneficial to healthy, nourishing soil.
There are a couple of ways to add leaves to your soil:
- Dig a thin layer of leaves into your garden. Ensure that they’re not packed together, and they’re covered with a thin layer of soil or compost. Thick layers of leaves tend to stick together like stacks of pages, and not decompose.
- Put your leaves in your compost pile. They should decompose within a year as long as they are not allowed to dry out. Leaves need to be kept moist in order to break down.
In either case, you can expedite the process by shredding the leaves with a lawnmower or shears.
Dig up your compost
Empty out your compost bin, and spread the fully or partially decomposed matter on your empty garden beds. The material will continue to decompose over the winter and into spring, adding nutrients to the soil.
Return to the compost bin the material that is still fairly intact and new, such as the plants that recently succumbed to the frost. These plants will continue to break down over the course of the winter and into the new year, in time to be added to your garden the next fall.
Cut back perennials
Most vegetables are annuals or biennials, but some vegetables (and many flowers) are perennials. Once the cold weather has killed their above-ground growth, you may want to cut them back down to the root, and put the plant matter into the compost. If you use a cold compost system, avoid putting seeds into the compost, as they may germinate once the compost is moved to the garden.