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10 Steps to Prepare Your Garden for Winter

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

Winter can be long and harsh in the zone 3 climate. Putting a little time and effort into preparing your garden soil in the fall goes a long way towards making spring planting easy and next year's garden successful!

The end of harvest brings with it mixed emotions for me. After a busy fall full of picking, preserving and freezing the garden bounty one part of me is relieved to have this busy season behind me. The other part feels empty without having the garden to check on, the joy of seeing the miracle of growing plants, the satisfaction of picking fresh produce for dinner and the peace that surrounds me in the garden. It is a time to reflect on the year and the gardening failures and successes.

Preparing your garden for winter, preparing your garden for spring, preparing your garden for fall.  What should I do with my garden in the fall?  Garden soil.

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Here are 10 steps you can take to prepare your garden for winter and for an easy planting next spring.

1. Collect Seeds

Saving vegetable and flower seeds in the fall is easy and fun to do! Once you get the hang of it you will be wondering why you haven't been saving your own seeds all along! I like to save my own seed potatoes, garlic sets, peas, beans, squash, cilantro, sweet pea, marigold, sunflower and nasturtium seeds, to name a few, and am still learning about saving other seeds! Check out A Beginner's Guide to Saving Seeds to learn how to save your own seeds!

2. Pull Dead Plants and Weeds

I like to clean my garden beds so that they are easy to plant as soon as the soil is workable in the spring. Pulling out any weeds along with their roots that were difficult to get at while your vegetables were still in the garden pays off come springtime! Once your vegetable plants are pulled, one option is to lay them back on top of the soil. The reason for doing this is that there are nutrients in these leaves that benefit the soil. Do not do this with plants that if are moldy or diseased. I have not personally used this method as almost all our garden scraps go to the chickens!

3. Clean Out Any Rocks or Lumps of Clay

While you are working your soil, rake out any rocks or lumps of clay or particularly hard soil that you come across. The easiest way to do this is repeatedly raking the surface of the soil as you are working it.

4. Test the Soil

Testing your garden soil in not required, but can be a great asset to growing healthy vegetable plants! Fall is a perfect time to test your garden soil to see if it is lacking in necessary nutrients, vital for plant growth. Soil testing kits test soil levels of pH as well as nitrogen, phosphate and potash. Each of these is required at the right level to easily grow healthy plants. If you find you are high or low in one, adding the required amendment in the fall will give the soil more time to adjust then if you try to amend only in spring. Re-test the soil in the spring and, if necessary, amend again.

Amazon carries two suitable soil testing kits. Be sure your kit tests more than soil pH. Also look at the number of tests you can run. The less expensive kits have supplies for fewer tests. I have one similar to