Having raised garden beds is a great idea for people who love to grow their own vegetables. They are easy to maintain, large enough to grow a good amount of veg, and they look really nice too. Putting a garden to bed is one thing, but how to prepare your raised garden beds for winter?
8 Essential Steps
1. Clean Up
You need to remove all the spent plants and vegetable matter that have finished their growing season – leaving them in the soil looks messy, plus it can introduce potential diseases and fungus into your soil.
You can either remove the plants and destroy them, or you can add them to the compost heap to provide nutrients for next year’s harvest, as long as they aren’t diseased.
Also, take this time to have a really good weed of the plot, to clear it up well and make sure there are no invasive plants which can take hold during the quiet months.
2. Mulch, Mulch, Mulch
Not only will mulching your soil well in the winter add vital nutrients, but it will also help protect the plot against the cold months.
Mulching helps regulate the temperature of the soil and regulates the moisture retention, plus it can really help the roots of those plants that spend the whole winter in the ground, and give them the best start in the spring.
3. Trim And Prune
Many plants will benefit from a good, clean trim at the start of the colder season, to help them start the next season as well and healthy as they can be.
Some plants like an autumn pruning more than others; herbs are obvious candidates, and rhubarb and asparagus will love a good haircut.
Some of the soft fruits, like raspberries and blueberries, continue to grow into the winter, so leave these guys till the spring.
4. Divide Bulbs
If you have flowers growing, the autumn is the time to prepare them for the next season’s growth. Lift the bulbs and separate them, ready to be planted elsewhere. Planting bulbs ready for the spring is best done now too.
You may think that the winter is not the time to fertilize your plants, but it is actually a great opportunity to add some nutrients into the soil so that it can get going on releasing its vital goodness.
Another good reason to add compost now is that everything you composted over the summer will now be nicely rotted and ready to go in the soil, and it will leave space for the winter’s offerings.
You can add all of your spent vegetables to your compost, along with fallen leaves and other green (or brown) matter.
6. Prepare The Soil
Digging, weeding and turning seem like they should be spring duties, but getting a start on it now will mean that you have less to do in the spring.
Adding compost, manure or fertilizer now will also help the soil immensely; the time between now and the next season’s planting will allow the nutrients to spread through the soil.
If this is your first year with brand new raised beds, you may find that the level of soil drops as it starts to compact slightly, so adding a little more at this stage is a great idea.
7. Cover Up
Once you have weeded out all the invaders, fertilized your soil and turned it over lightly, you can really “put it to bed” – cover the whole bed with sheets of weed covering fabric, which will allow moisture to seep through but will prevent the sunlight reaching the soil and helping any weeds to grow.
This is a great time to put your feet up for a few weeks and enjoy some time away from the garden, and spend time where it’s warm!
8. To Roof Or Not To Roof?
If you want to continue growing veg in the winter, you can put a roof over your raised beds to protect them from the worst of the weather and keep them slightly warmer.
Be aware though, that this can stop the vital sunlight getting to your plants, so make sure you use a see through covering.
Here is a good video showing you how to do this effectively to help your raised beds:
Best Winter Veg
Raised beds are good for growing vegetables, even in the winter, because the soil stays slightly warmer than the more exposed soil in a garden or allotment. You can even grow salad in the winter months!
You can sow your salad seeds right at the end of the growing season, around September, and harvest it from November to January. These little thin leaved plants will not cope well with heavy frosts, however warm the soil is.
Sow radishes in September, and you can enjoy them in November or December. Add a little fleece or mulch to the surface of the soil to keep the roots warm.
You sow leeks early in the season, around May time, and you can start to harvest them from November.
Another veg that you will be planting early in the season (around April/May), your sprouts should be ready to eat between November and March. These guys actually get a little sweeter after a frost or two, so don’t worry about them too much in the cold.
Although it is a thin leaved plant, spinach is actually pretty hardy. You can plant it in November, and start to pick it between January and March.
This nutrient packed veg is a great addition to a winter garden. Plant the small seedlings in the summer, then you can pretty much ignore them until November or December, when they will start to produce.
For those who like a visual guide, this is a great, comprehensive video on how to prepare your raised garden beds for winter:
Winter is often known as “the hunger gap”, because the garden will not be producing as much food as in the summer months, and most things will have died back.
There are still jobs to do, however, and still some veg that you can get from your winter beds.
Work out how to prepare your raised garden beds for winter, so that they will be at their best when next year’s growing season arrives, and you can enjoy growing veg for a good long time to come.