As winter approaches, it’s tempting just to sit back and
put your feet up and not have to think about the garden
until springtime. However, just a bit of extra work at
this time of the year can save you a whole lot of hassle
come planting time.
Garden clean-up, the last
big chore for gardeners, is often overlooked, especially
if it’s been a strenuous gardening year. But by cleaning-up
garden debris, composting the healthy material and throwing
away the rest, gardeners will benefit in numerous ways:
Removing garden debris
will keep pests under control. Many insects,
like the asparagus beetle, will overwinter in debris
and come out even earlier the following year. Slugs & snails love
to hide under leaves and will often lay their eggs
in these comfy areas. Older cabbage leaves, for example,
should be removed so that slugs don’t have easy access
to the heart of the cabbage.
Diseased plant material
laying around in the garden can be sources of infection
the following year. The Late Blight fungus that infects
tomatoes and potatoes has been shown to infect gardens
especially where volunteer plants sprout early in
Your compost pile
will benefit from the healthy material you add into
it. If much of the garden material is still green,
make sure to mix-in some “brown” material such as
tree leaves (which are plentiful right now), dried
grass, straw, or shredded newspaper.
While frosts usually
signal the end of tender plant growth, for over wintering
plants like kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, parsnips and radicchio,
a good frost actually sweetens the taste!
How does this occur? These
overwintering plants actually use sugar as a an antifreeze!
By pumping more sugar into their cells, and reducing
the water content, the plants are able to withstand
colder temperatures. For home gardeners, this mechanism
is an added bonus. Not only do they survive for longer
periods, the taste of these vegetables improves after
a good frost.
So, when the garden shows
signs of that silvery hue, rejoice!