Winterizing my Garden: Progress Report

It’s Enviro-Mama Thursday here on Today, I’m taking some time to update you on my One Green Thing for this month, which is winterizing my garden.

As I explained at the beginning of the month, I tend to be fairly haphazard when it comes to gardening. I plant a whole bunch of things, without spending a whole lot of time considering things like soil pH, drainage or pest control. I do try to find sunny spots for my sun-loving plants, but even there I’m not spending a whole bunch of time agonizing over the decision. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my results are hit or miss. Some years, I get a bumper crop of tomatoes or cucumbers or lettuce. Some years, I get a total of three tomatoes from five plants, and all my cucumber seedlings are eaten by slugs. I’d like to change that, though, so this fall I’m getting serious.

I thought all my potatoes failed. I was wrong.I did some reading on how to prepare your garden for winter. It turns out I’ve missed the fall window for applying pest control measures like nematodes, so at this point I’m thinking ahead to next spring, and how I’ll battle those dastardly slugs. I have my eye on a slug trap that you fill with beer, and some Diatomaceous earth to put around my fragile seedlings. I also have my eye on some proper seed starting trays with domed lids, so that my little plants get off to a better start. The bigger they are, the harder it will be for a pest to eat them in one fell swoop.

While it’s too late for pest control now, I have been spending time out in the garden. I cleared out all the weeds from my garden beds, and in the process I found some unexpected bounty. All of my potato plants died in early summer, so I’d given up on the potatoes. However, when I was weeding my potato bed I uncovered a small potato. Some serious digging turned up more than two dozen small potatoes. It’s fewer than there should have been if the plants had done well, but at this point it’s kind of like getting a free lunch, so I’m thrilled.

Gathering leavesOnce the beds were cleared out, it was time to think about mulching. You want to protect your garden over the winter, so that valuable nutrients – or the soil itself – doesn’t wash away. I’d heard that leaves work well. Plus – bonus points – they’re free! For a couple of weeks I carried a couple of nylon bags in my pocket when I walked Hannah to school and back, and stopped to collect leaves. They were wet and dirty, since it’s November in Vancouver, and kind of heavy to carry. I probably looked a little funny to passersby, carrying dripping bags full of leaves. But in the end I laid a good layer of mulch down on my garden, so I’m the one laughing.

The last item on my list – and the one I am most intimidated by – is pruning. I asked around on Twitter and heard back from a reliable source who lives nearby and hence understands the local climate. She told me to wait until early spring, because it’s better for the plants and the birds. Since that gets me off the pruning hook, you don’t have to ask me twice. I did a little Googling, though, and the one exception may be the out-of-control hydrangea in front of my house, so I’ll be tackling that shortly.

I’m not sure if my efforts to winterize my garden will make a difference come spring, but I feel like I’ve done what I could. One thing I have learned for sure over my years gardening is that even if you plan perfectly, you’re still at the whim of nature. This is why experienced farmers can have failed crops. Some years, the weather just doesn’t cooperate, or things go sideways for another reason, and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. If I hold up my end of the bargain, though, I’ll at least be giving my garden a fighting chance.

Do you garden? Have you taken any steps to winterize? If you have any tips, I’m all ears!

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  1. Start saving your eggshells now. Slugs and snails hate crawling over eggshells to get to plants, so a ring of crushed shell works wonders to repel them. they also add nutrients back into th soil. Also, copper coiled wire works well. Check out the Lee Valley catalog for more ideas on slug and smail control. (Not that you need a reason to leaf through the Lee Valley catalog, right?)

    We rake our leaves right onto the garden beds to protect the plants. Its the lazy man’s way of doing fall yard work LOL. In the Spring, we rake them all off, and into the compost bin. We don’t winterize more than that. The snow blanket we get insulates most of our perrenial plants well.

    We do not take out any of the dead stalks from perrenials, or trim back plants in the Fall at all. partially it is because I love the look of the (dead) stalks or dried carpet (low lying plants) sticking out of the snow, it adds interest to the winter garden. Also, it means in the Spring, you can see where your plants are when you rake out the beds and prepare the soil for the next summer! We’re lazy, we don’t stake and label our plants. The kids would just pull them out to swordfight anyways LOL.

    We trim our perennial herbs back, but not harshly. Be kind to them, give them a bit of a dome. It will help Spring growth. If we prune lightly, we get an early spring harvest of both Oregano and Savory.

    We usually don’t rototill until spring either, preferring to let the winter break down and freeze the soil as is, weeds and such intact. Once Spring hits, we mulch like mad, turn he soil, and it looks fantastic!
    Caroline’s last post … Thankful and HappyMy Profile

    • I was really wishing I had trees so I could just rake my own leaves. As it was, I had to go foraging.

      I clearly need to check out the Lee Valley catalogue. Right now I rely heavily on West Coast Seeds, located here in Vancouver.

  2. Funny, I did just what you did with the leaves for my garden beds! I was rather pleased with myself that I could (sort of) clean up my back yard and mulch at the same time. Although I read that I probably should have shopped the leaves up a bit rather than placing the whole leaves on them. Time will tell if it worked.

    Given that I am rather lazy, I didn’t prune my roses, raspberries and hydrangeas this fall, but like you, I discovered that for our climate it is best to wait until spring, otherwise the plants might think it is an early spring given our warmer winters, or something like that (makes me sound smart, lol). Suits me, and it seems to work because I have roses that I can’t seem to kill, no matter how much I neglect and abuse.

    I would agree with Caroline about saving egg shells to crush and put around tender seedlings. We do that and it does help, or so I think it does, because we haven’t had a huge slug or snail problem in the garden.

    Only thing I would add is that if you do potatoes next year, purposely leave some in your garden and you’ll have a whole bunch of potatoes with no effort come next summer, and they’ll be big and full without doing anything. I always try to leave half a dozen spuds to save me some work and money.

    Happy Winter!
    Christy’s last post … Fall Garden UpdateMy Profile

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