She’s baaaaaaack. Jenny at EverGood Farm is swinging back in (aren’t we the luckiest) to give you some more tips on closing up your veggie garden for the Winter*! It’s been chilly where she is in Northern, WI (something I know well here in MN). She’s seen three frosts and is starting to clean up the summer crops. Get ready for tips from the pro!
*disclaimer, if you aren’t familiar with the term ‘Winter’, this post might not be for you. Also, if that’s you – can we (Katie & Anna) come stay with you for the Winter?! Please.
Do you still have tomatoes and peppers on your plants and a chilly night is approaching? Here is a list of some vegetables that will not survive if left uncovered during a mild frost: Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, summer squash, winter squash, some flowers, cucumbers. Basil will not survive temperatures under 38, but it would probably survive down to 32 if it was covered. Baby greens, cauliflower and head lettuce will start showing damage at around 27-28 Degrees, while thicker leaves like kale cabbage and broccoli, can handle quite a bit colder. In our experience covering usually works to about 29-30 Degrees. Anything below that will still damage sensitive veggies. We use large pieces of clear plastic to cover our crops, but we are working with huge sections! A large tarp or blanket will work just fine. Make sure to cover the night before a frost, and keep it on until the sun is out and frost is not on the ground anymore. It is also wise to use rocks or soil to hold down the edges of your tarps as wind can easily blow off tarps in the middle of the night. Most vegetables are pretty hardy and will even start tasting sweeter as cold weather causes the veggies to convert their starches to sugar to survive winter. Yum!
Crops to enjoy this fall
If you haven’t dug your potatoes yet, it’s probably time! The can store a long time in a cooler garage or basement. Kale, broccoli, and other thick leaved greens can be left in the garden. I’ve even harvested kale with some snow on it! Any leafy greens (like spinach or lettuce) will often freeze overnight but be perfectly fine to harvest once thawed. Your root crops like carrots, parsnips, radishes, and beets can continue to be dug until the ground freezes. Depending on your climate you can loosen your root crops (carrots and parsnips) so they can be pulled easily and cover them with a thick layer of straw. Then you can come out and pull as needed as use the ground as your root cellar. Some varieties of carrots and parsnips can be wintered over if there is enough snow covering them. As soon as the snow melts (and before the tops start growing) you’ll want to pull everything out. If harvested at the right time you will be blown away by their sweetness. The only downside is, they never keep very long!
Cleaning up your garden for winter
As frosts come and kill your crops, or if they are done for the season pull them out and add fertility back to the soil if you think your garden needs it. We prefer to add animal manure in the fall so it has the whole winter to sit on the beds and break down a little bit more. If you have time you can till or rake it in too. If you are in a warmer climate you also may want to think about planting a cover crop to add nutrients back to the soil. Some easy crops to grow include winter rye, winter wheat, and clover. There will be a ton of information online on some of the best cover crops to grow for your area. Here in northern, WI if we do not get our cover crop planted by middle of August it won’t grow much before winter. Make sure to fully weed your soil. We like to have the beds basically ready to go for the spring in case there is a late/wet spring and we are running behind!
At the farm we grow asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb, and fruit trees. Once the asparagus, strawberries and rhubarb die back we cut the foliage off, give it a good weeding (this makes a huge difference on spring weeds), add compost, and mulch them with straw. This helps protect them if we don’t get enough snow before it gets cold. For our fruit trees, we simply mulch around the base of the plant with leaves, straw or grass clippings, and wait to prune until there is enough snow in the spring so that we don’t need a ladder to reach the tops!
Keeping your garden disease free
Before you pull out all of your veggies for the year you may want to take note of what was where. Crop rotation is very important to reduce disease and insects. You do not want to plant crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, broccoli, and other heavy feeders in the same spot next year. If you garden is small you may even want to rotate by using large pots outside of the garden. If you had any soil born tomatoes diseases like blight this year you may even want to consider removing the soil and replacing it with new disease free soil. Planting a cover crop will also help with disease and weeds.
Winter Gardening Planning
This January I will talk about how to select seeds and start them yourself. Now is the time to take notes on what worked and what didn’t in your garden because if you are like me, you’ll have forgotten by December. Happy Fall everyone! Stay tuned for our last gardening guide due out in January.
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