It’s the time of year where temperatures start to dip and the threat of snow is on its way. Time to winterize the garden! Not sure where to start? Work through this checklist to make sure you’re set up for a successful garden the following year.
Taking Care of the Soil
Your garden just had a summer of growing beautiful plants (hopefully) but plants need nutrients to thrive. Throw coffee grounds, tea leaves, compost, composted manure, eggshells, or whatever else you like to fertilize with.
Natural composts need time to continue breaking down and make nutrients actually available to the plants, so adding it now will help set your soil up for your plants next year. Add 1″ for flower beds and 3″ of composting material to vegetable beds.
You should also top up your planters with compost. The No-Dig growing method is something every grower (urban or otherwise) should experiment with. Think of each of your baskets as its own ecosystem and rotate crops just like you would do in beds.
Move Plants Back Inside
If you’re moving potted plants inside for the winter, start early and move your plants inside for small periods at a time and increase that amount of time gradually. This will help your plant to adjust to the indoor light and climate instead of shocking it, making it go dormant, or potentially killing them.
If you need to, augment their indoor spaces with humidifiers, fans, lights, and bug traps. check them every few days to ensure you’re not harbouring any unwanted guests.
Most bulbs are planted at this time of year if they are early-blooming or cold-hardy. You’ll also want to plant your onion and garlic bulbs if you want a fall harvest for next year. I always grow at least a few bulbs in my strawberry baskets. If you want low-maintenance bulbs that you don’t have to dig up, look for hardy bulbs to plant now, as most require cold time to start sprouting.
There are also plenty of bulbs that you have to dig up and store inside. When planing your garden winterization, cut back and dry your tender bulbs like dahlia’s, anemones, and begonias. You’ll need to store them in newspaper or wrappings after drying the bulbs.
Winterize a Potted Garden
While there are tons of plants that survive our cold Canadian winters, they do so under layers of snow keeping warm under the soil. Potted plants may not keep your sage, rosemary, or any other perennial. But, you can help protect those plants by moving your pots and sheltering them.
I like to stack mine and keep them cozy under my balcony bench. If you don’t want to home-make storage solutions for yourself, consider grouping them up to a wall on your building for the residual heat and putting them under a pot.
The most important thing to think about when winterizing pots is the water. If there is saturated soil and the pot freezes, the water expanding could crack your pots.
Clean Your Garden Tools
The final step I take when preparing my garden for winter is cleaning all my tools from the summer. After I’m satisfied with the state of my plants, I turn my attention to my tools. Replacing plates, sharpening, and replacing any tools that might be damaged. It’s a good time to look and see if tools you’ve been drooling over have gone on sale.
What’s your favourite task when you winterize your garden? I use this time to help me take stock of what grew well and what kinds of seeds I’d like to start sourcing for the following year. If you’re looking for even more garden resources, check out this ultimate guide for the urban gardener.