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 lying 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 the spring.
- Your compost pile will benefit from the healthy material you add to 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.
Welcome the winter frosts
While frosts usually signal the end of tender plant growth, for overwintering 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 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, but the taste of these vegetables also improves after a good frost.
So, when the garden shows signs of that silvery hue, rejoice!
Arzeena is the Contributing Editor – Vegetable Gardening