Fall and Winter seasons bring cooler weather, new vegetables for the garden and table, and a new set of garden tasks. Here are a few things you can be doing over the Winter season to ensure a productive Winter garden and a good start for your Spring garden come February.
Fall is the time to add in cool weather crops that will grow and be harvested over the Winter months. Ideally, plant Winter growing vegetables 4 weeks before your area’s first killing frost (below 28℉). Plants like kale, lettuces, chard, and heading brassicas (cauliflower and broccoli) can all withstand light frosts (28℉-32℉).
Pick up fallen leaves and remove any expired plants. Old leaves and fruit left in your garden bed can harbor pests and disease over winter. Leaf litter creates shelter for insects like slugs and overwintering beetles.
Remove lower leaves of plants that touch the bed surface. These leaves are likely to mold during wet weather and can encourage pests and disease.
Remove lower leaves on plants as they mature and turn yellow (including your perennial herbs like oregano, chives, and sage!) This will help reduce the clean up of your garden’s soil surface.
Deadhead flowering plants by removing spent flowers, this will also help encourage more blooms.
Keep the areas around your garden beds clean and clear of long grasses and pest harboring plants. Many insect pests lay eggs to overwinter on nearby grasses and landscape plants. Cut back and trim plants, keeping them from touching your garden beds.
Pull any rogue weeds that have taken root in your garden. Weeds will grow and outcompete many of your edible plants so it is best to remove them as soon as your identify them as a weed. Not sure what’s sprouting up in your garden? Shoot us a photo and email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help!
Prepare Your Soil:
Cover exposed soil with mulch (rice straw or other non germinating straw). In areas with colder winters, mulch can help insulate the roots of plants, helping with cold tolerance. In Northern California, we rely on it for protection against hot weather during Summer months, but it also helps protect the shallow roots of plants during intense and heavy rainfalls and prevent depressions or trenches from forming in your soil.
If you aren’t growing for the season, plant cover crops like fava beans, winter wheat, or crimson clover. Make sure to cut down plants before they set seed. Leave chopped leaf matter in bed for mulch or turn into soil to help give additional nitrogen back to your soil.
Continue to add to your compost pile. Tip: Save your grass clippings and leaf litter to add to your compost pile. The addition of dry brown plant matter helps keep your compost healthy and can help prevent your pile from becoming anaerobic and stinky.
Winter in Sonoma and Marin Counties in California is a great time to continue producing food and prepare for the next main growing season. Follow the tips above to ensure a healthy, happy, and productive garden all year long.