Gardening Tips: Putting the Garden to Bed

Editor’s Note: This column was last published on 21 October 2020.


What to do this week

This week, I want to do a checklist for putting your garden to bed for the winter. Some of the items on my list have been covered recently in more detail, so I will refer to those columns as I go along.

First of all, just in case you have been too busy to have planted your garlic, you might be able to sneak in a planting before it is too late. You are running out of time to do it safely but if you get to it very soon, the garlic might survive the winter. (We covered garlic planting in detail a couple of weeks ago.) Be sure to cover the garlic well with seaweed, straw or leaves as the freeze/thaw cycles are going to start any minute now. I use seaweed a lot, but I usually collect it in advance, and leave it to wash in the rain for a bit before applying it to crops. That way the salt is washed away. You may not have time for that, so you may have to resort to getting all your neighbous to donate their Halloween straw bales once they don’t need them anymore.

Planting garlic. (Photo by Madeline Yakimchuk)

Planting garlic. (Photo by Madeline Yakimchuk)

Second on the list, put tree guards on all of your fruit trees. Tree trunks make excellent munchies for mice and other rodents during the long, cold winter, and tree guards help to prevent that. You can get them at any good garden center. They are not expensive. Also, clip the grass around your fruit trees. You won’t have to do it more than once, at this point, so get it well clipped before the snow comes.

Third, mulch any tender perennials, and by tender I mean anything you transplanted just recently. You may also have transplants from earlier in the season that you want to give some extra protection to, just in case the roots haven’t completely settled in. Do the same for late plantings (including garlic of course). You may want to wait a bit, perhaps until the end of November, to plant your spinach for early spring harvest. When you do that, be sure it is well mulched. You can clear the mulch away as soon as the snow reveals it.

And finally, if you haven’t already done so, it is a really good idea to make a map of what you planted where. You will be surprised how much you will forget over the winter, and many of the traces of what was where will be erased by wind and snow. When you start your planning next year, and you remember all my advice about crop rotation, you will be glad for that map. Also, make a note of things that came to your attention during the season that you might not recall if you don’t. Did the tent caterpillars come early or late? Did you think to do some extra stone removal in a particular patch? Did one spot really seem to need extra compost or lime? That sort of thing. I always intend to keep a gardening journal but I’m not very good at it. I get too busy mid-season. If you are like me, make some notes now.

Speaking of lime, you can add that now before you mulch. You won’t even have to dig it in as the rain and freeze/thaw cycles will do the mixing for you. Be careful, though, that you don’t walk all over the garden, especially with the amount of rain we are getting. Just walking around too much can compact the soil and damage soil structure.

If you have brought plants indoors, your potted peppers for instance, keep an eye on them for pests. You may not even have had troubles during the summer, but that could simply be because there are predators to keep things in balance outdoors. Aphids often seem to bloom indoors for that reason. Catch them in time and you will be fine with a spray of insecticidal soapy water.

When this is all done, put away your garden tools. (I covered care and storage of garden tools a couple of weeks ago, too.)

We will be taking a bit of a break, but expect to be back early in January. By then, if you have gotten the garden bug, you will be anxious to get the seed catalogs, and starting to dream of planting.

We’ll be back!

Featured image: George Washington’s garden at Mount Vernon in winter. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.





Market gardener, farmer, workshop leader, seed-saver, political candidate and mother, Michelle Smith has spent over 30 years coping with the challenges of our bioregion and in the process has built a store of practical and technical knowledge. The Inverness resident has served on the board of Seeds of Diversity Canada and represented Alternative Producers with the Federation of Agriculture but can do nothing about her hair. She is pictured with a head of Club Wheat, a seed that shares her approach to hairdressing.




Backyard food gardener Madeline Yakimchuk caught the food-security bug in the early ’90s through Cuba’s Urban Agriculture Department, taking her first permaculture course and planting her first garden. She can often be found discussing food security, nurturing a plant-based lifestyle or trying to give away vegetables. Professionally, she is GRYPHON media productions but sometimes uses la bruja in her volunteer work, most notably in managing the garden column, which begins life as a telephone interview.





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