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Winter Prepping Your Garden

Winter is quickly approaching, but that doesn’t mean your garden needs to close down for months. Prepping it for colder weather and knowing which plants to bring indoors, and which can be planted to thrive in low temperatures, will allow you to exercise your green thumb well past fall.

How to Prep Your Garden for Winter

Although activity above the soil may have slowed down considerably a lot is happening below the mulch. Roots continue to grow and draw on nutrients in the soil. Compost that was applied continues to break down and decompose.

To get your flower beds ready for dropping temperature and potentially heavy snow cut back perennials, as well as any dead or diseased leaves from trees, shrubs, and foliage. After expelling any “dead stuff,” lay a thick layer of compost on the soil to continue feeding root systems until next growing season.

Young or tender evergreens should be shielded from the sun and damaging, harsh winter wins. Place burlap screens around them to help them get through the tough winter months. To learn more about creating screens check out this blog post at LoveYourYard.com!

Winter Wheat Growing

What exactly is winter wheat? Winter wheat is a crop planted in the fall that is used primarily for all-purpose, pastry and cake flowers. Typically winter wheat sprouts before freezing occurs and them remains dormant until soil warms in early spring.

Plant winter wheat in the fall about six to eight weeks before the soil in your region freezes. This time frame allows for good root development: plant too early and your plants could be susceptible to late summer insects, plant too late and the plants may not overwinter well.

Winter wheat can be planted in rows like crops and should be rototilled into the soil about 2.5 inches deep. Wheat plants will change colors from green to yellow to brown as they mature.

The heads of the wheat stalks will become heavy with grains and will lean toward the ground when they are full. To see if they are ready to harvest you can test a few grains yourself. Chew a few grains from your plant to see what their consistency is. Soft and doughy grains are premature and need more time to mature. Continually check the grains until they are firm and crunchy at which time you can harvest your crops.

To harvest your winter wheat simply cut off the heads of the stems. Small amounts can be stored in plastic bags in the freezer, but larger amounts need to be stored to minimize moisture. You can use a flourmill to ground the grains into fine flour that can be used for cooking. Store ground flour in airtight containers in a cool location.

Bringing Plants Indoors

Container plants can be brought inside during the winter to increase their rate of survival. Moving plants indoors should be done gradually as a sudden change in temperature, light, and environment can be detrimental to the plants.

Begin by bringing plants indoors for a few hours every day and place them where you intend to keep them in the winter. After about two weeks, the plants should be acclimated to their new surroundings and can stay there until weather becomes warmer. Plants should be brought indoors full-time before the threat of frost is present.

Small insects can travel indoors with your plants and should be combatted head on. Use an organic insect killer like Safer® Brand Insect Killing Soap to kill bugs before they are able to make your home their winter residence.

Controlling Fall Pests and Critters

There are a couple of fall pests and critters we should be aware of so that our garden and outdoor living areas don’t become home to unwanted visitors. Stink bugs, grubs, and deer are all present during this season change and should be handled accordingly.

Stink bugs – a smelly pest that can reproduce exponentially in a short amount of time. Safer® Brand EndALL helps to eliminate these bugs by killing them on contact. Using a trap like the Safer® Brand Stink Bug Magnet will catch the bugs without the use of poisons.

Grubs – dead spots on your lawn is a clue that grubs are present on your property. As the larval stage of many insects, grubs feed on root systems and kill the plants and grass they support. Safer® Brand Grub Killer uses Neem oil to organically and effectively eliminate your grub problem.

Deer – these large animals can clear a garden quickly as well as create damage to trees by raking off the bark and eating the leaves. A repellant like Deer Off® II Deer, Rabbit & Squirrel Repellent will help to keep deer from chewing on your crops. You may also choose to employ a tall fence, at least 6 feet high, to keep deer from raiding your gardens.

Composting Through the Winter

The waste you create through the winter can be composted to help your garden in the spring and summer. Composting, nature’s recycling process, converts your old scraps and “natural trash” into a nutrient rich treat for your garden. In addition to providing a nutrient boost to soil, compost helps combat plant disease.

There are two basic sources to create compost: old plant material or waste from our daily life. Dead plants can be thrown away or they can continue serving your purpose by being composted. Compost needs a good mixture of “green stuff” and “brown stuff.” Green stuff is high in nitrogen and is the heating agent for your compost and gets the mixture cooking. The brown stuff, which is high in carbon, helps the compost break down. Dead plants, fall leaves, and dead weeds all serve well for compost. (Learn more with our infographic here).

An alternative way to collect materials for your compost is to look at everyday life and what you throw away. Materials that are organic and are not animal-based can be tossed in with the dead plants and leaves to provide additional nutrients. Consider using the following:

  • Egg shells
  • Coffee grinds
  • Food scraps
  • Tea bags (be sure to remove the staple)
  • Stale bread or crackers
  • Paper bags
  • Toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls

Getting your compost pile started is easier than you may think. You can place your compost ready materials in a container or you can start a mound in a specific area of your garden. Applying a compost starter product, like Ringer® Compost Plus Organic Compost Starter, will kick-start your composting process. This product supplies additional nutrient resources that start the compost process more quickly and efficiently.

After applying your starter product be sure to water your materials so they are about as wet as a damp sponge. To maintain your compost regularly apply materials to it as you have them available. Aerate your compost pile every 7-10 days by raking through it with a pitchfork or spade. To learn more about composting and making it work for your garden check out our infographic here.

Storing Your Garden Tools

Garden tools, although they require an investment, they are worth it because they allow you to do a better job in the garden in less time. Proper care for your garden tools will allow them to serve you for a longer period of time.

When you are finished with a majority of your tools for the summer you can prep them for winter storage. Clean your tools with warm soap and water and allow them to fully dry.  To ward off rust, spray them with a light oil or lubricant like WD-40 before storing them. You may choose to have blades or spikes sharpened at your local hardware store so they are in great condition for the next season, too.

Keep tools with wooden handles in a cool, dry place so the wood does not become moldy and contaminated. Your shed, garage, or basement are all great options to keep your garden tools when you’re not using them.

What’s Next? 

Although it can be sad to “close down” your garden for the winter, it is not really the end. It is just a more dormant period where you are able to allow your garden to work underneath the ground and have a rest. Send us your photos of garden clean-up on our Facebook page! What tips do you have to help the gardening community?

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