Organic Heirloom Plants

Striving for Sustainable Agriculture

How To Prepare Your Garden For Winter

Fall is the time for cleanup. One of our big jobs is preparing the garden for winter and next springs planting. Hopefully you have everything harvested and fully stocked up for the long winter months to come! One of the most important steps in preparation is to be sure to leave all plant material on your beds or growing rows being sure to eliminate any disease or insect infested material. Leaving the plant material on the ground will provide your garden with much needed nutrients for next years crops and a good medium for decomposing throughout the winter months.

Remember, soil is alive! There are many beneficial micro-organisms at play here and you want to be careful not to disturb the wonderful makeup of nature and let it do it's process. In this article, we will guide you through a NO-TILL solution to many common problems experienced by gardeners.

 

One of the most obvious benefits of a NO-TILL garden is tillage. By allowing the soil to re-generate on it's own, you will increase the amount of water in your soil, increase organic matter and decrease soil erosion. Tilling is used for one thing...to eliminate weeds. There are many beneficial ways (organic) you can solve that problem by first adding all of your plant material to the top layer of the soil. The idea here is to build up the soil and give those micro-organisms and beneficial worms something to feed on all winter long. By keeping the carbons in the soil (NO-TILL), you are also helping the environment by decreasing carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere and working toward sustainable agriculture which benfits yourself and the environment all the way around. This will give you higher yields, less weeding, and richer, healthier plants with alot less work throughout your growing season.

 

After you've pulled all dead and done growing plants and left them on your growing beds, the next thing you want to do is add more plant material. Fall leaves and grass clippings are the perfect solution and there is plenty of it! It takes 6" of plant material to make 2" of compost. While this is a good measure to start from, I would recommend a combination of leaves and grass 12" thick. The more your beds are raised with plant material the more rich compost you will have ready to plant in next spring! This will not only enrich the soil but it will also keep the weeds from getting a chance to re-emerge without the use of harmful chemcials to ourselves and the environment. So, why leaves and grass? Leaves provide potash and grass provides nitrogen, the 2 are on opposite sides of the PH scale (leaves, acidy/grass, alkaline) so you want to be aware of that. While adding all leaves may be your solution, your soils PH needs to be on average 6.5 ph. to supply your plants with the proper needs and soil conditions to grow.

Now that you have your beds properly mulched with at least 6" (12" better) covering your planting beds, you want to sprinkle some cornmeal over each growing bed...this will deter new weed seeds from coming up next spring and the winters snow and rain will wash it down and in through your nicely mulched beds through the winter months.

Next spring, sprinkle more corn meal and add more grass mulch to your beds once you have your plants in. Continously adding grass mulch to your beds throughout the growing season will provide all the necessary nutrients your plants need for nitrogen loving plants and keep your soil moist without too much evaporation during hot summer days. Never use chemicals or commercial fertilizers. This will undue all the beneficial steps you made all winter long!

Your job isn't done yet! Now that your cozy by your warm fire on a wintery day, it's time to save up for your plants needs. Plants also need potash, calcium, zinc and trace minerals to grow. Saving your crushed eggshells will not only provide your soil with calcium, carefully worked around your plants, will keep the slugs away too! Tomatoes especially need lots of calcium to prevent black end rot. Also, save all of your coffee grounds (potash)...beans especially love a good dose of coffee grounds and they make your soil more viable, especially if you have clay soil. Saving all of your vegatable (not meat) food scraps (potato & carrot peelings), anything you would normally throw away, keep in a 5 gallon bucket (or more) throughout the winter season and add it all to your garden next spring!

You've done it! You are now on the road to striving for sustainable agriculture and your family will love to have much more produce next year!

 

Happy Gardening!

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Striving For Sustainable Agriculture

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