All the know-how about preparing your garden for the wintertide with useful insights from Harpreet Ahluwalia of Earthly Creations
It’s time to winter-shield your garden
As winter approaches and temperatures drop, the plants are preparing for dormancy. They may look dead as a doornail, but they’re simply laying low until the soil warms up and the days get long. Don’t be fooled by their silence - there are plenty of things going on during the cold months. Newly transplanted trees and shrubs and parts of perennials are focusing on strengthening their roots by taking in nutrition from the soil. Even compost piles will continue to break down all winter. Sure, the microbes and redworks work at a much slower pace, but they continue to work nonetheless. Here are a few necessary and easy steps to keep your garden healthy and safe this winter.
Clean up the garden bed: Your garden becomes a mess by the end of the season. To clean it up is a big task. It is advisable to break up your garden bed into small areas and start cleaning one area at a time till all the areas are cleaned.
Remove rotting and dead plants: All dead foliage should be removed from garden beds. Some old plants can harbour disease, pests, and funguses. Remove all dead plants and rotten fruit or vegetables from the soil surface or bury them in the garden. Burying old plants in your garden also adds organic to the soil, which is helpful for other existing plants.
Add a layer of compost or mulch: The constant freezing and thawing of plants can be as harmful as cold temperatures. Use mulch to limit damage by spreading three inches of mulch on the ground surrounding plants to help maintain a constant temperature. Many diseases and good pests are killed when the soil freezes in winter. Mulching the beds could prevent the soil from freezing completely.
Test your soil: The onset of winter is the best time to get a soil test. Part of your annual winter tasks should be to check and know where your soil stands in terms of nutrients. This is the time when you need to test your soil to determine the pH level and how much lime and organic matter should be added to improve your soil. Lime is used to adjust the soil pH. This is beneficial because it has all winter to dissolve into the soil. Gather fall leaves for mulching: Fall leaves are gardener’s gold pot especially during the cold months. The main idea behind winter mulching is to keep the ground frozen by shielding it from the warmth of the sun. This may sound strange, as you would expect that one wants to keep their plants warm. Well, a little warmth during the winter could cause your plants to begin growing again and kill them once you have colder weather. Keeping your plants dormant can be achieved by mulching to ensure that they do not have any premature growth. A generous layer of shredded leaf mulch over the soil surface will enable to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and offer soil enrichment as it decomposes, and encourages good organisms.
Clean and oil your garden tools: Gardeners should keep their tools clean and well oiled. First wash them, if any rust is present then use sandpaper. Finally, rub the surfaces of your garden tools with light machine oil to ensure that the rust does not begin to form again over winter.