Late autumn/Early Winter is an ideal time to prepare your garden for the spring season to come. Many gardeners consider this season, the beginning of Spring, because what you
do or don’t do now, will be reflected in your garden next year.
For many of you, your fall/winter garden may just be part of your annual garden cycle. Either way, this is the time of the year to work on your soil, clean up beds, cut-back blackened stems and foliage and dead-head flowers. All this, helps prevent the possibility of harboring disease pathogens and insect eggs, over the winter. Another simple tip on preventing spreading pathogens is simply by not leaving the hose nozzle on the ground!
As winter approaches, there are many preparations to do in order to put your garden to bed, until late winter. Weed, weed, weed … by stopping weeds from spreading now, you will save yourself a lot of backache come spring. Since the ground is moist, weeding couldn’t be easier. While weeding, make sure that the root structure of your winter garden is not being compromised.
Once your beds have cleared, adding leaf mulch, specifically oak leaf, would be ideal. Avoid redwood, eucalyptus, bay and pine leaves for their acidic content. Cover your beds with 6 inches of lightweight mulch and fork that in a bit. For added nutrients, add compost underneath and work it in before adding the leaves. This thin cover will serve as the ideal winter layer to protect your plants, soil and roots. Though our ground does not freeze, this extra layer will begin breaking down and become organic matter for your spring and summer plantings.
As you are cutting back and dead-heading, this is an optimal time to work your compost pile. Remember to not throw in weed seeds or anything that may be diseased. Hot, active piles kill weed seeds and disease pathogens, but you need to have a compost thermometer to be assured your pile reaches 150 degrees or beyond.
A great way to add more organic matter to you soil is by cutting the annuals at their base and leaving the roots there to decompose over the course of time. Snip off the seed heads and sprinkle them around your garden.
How is your soil? The more fertile and aerated your soil is, the more hydration it will be able to receive. Know the texture of your soil, what it is made of, its structure and how it behaves. Knowing these qualities will help address the needs of your soil. With all the rain we have been receiving, it behooves us to be able to prepare our soil to receive as much moisture as possible. Adding mulch and wood chips can significantly help prevent runoff and erosion.
As the rains come down observe how the water travels in your yard, garden and around your house. Slowing water down while sinking it into the water table are ideal methods to maximize water penetration into the earth. Integrating burms into your landscape is a more project intensive solution, but could offer an excellent solution to direct and sink rainwater into the ground. Keep in mind that working deep into the soil, while it is still very wet, can be destructive to the soil structure. Wait until the earth has dried before starting any project.
Rain barrels are another easy way to collect all the water that we are receiving these days. They are easily found and simply to install. If you are handy, you can build one out of a range of materials.
These days are perfect to set the stage for a beautiful spring and summer garden to come!
The Living Seed Company is an organic and heirloom seed company based in Point Reyes Station. As a Bay Area seed company.