Like most everything, having a successful garden takes planning. Preparing your garden or landscape for the cold months of winter is essential for the vegetable beds and the ornamental flowering plants to come next Spring and Summer. With the winter rains finally arriving here at DripWorks, that time has come.
The first thing you'll need to do is clean out last year's vegetation and take some time to think of what you'll be replacing it with next Spring. Adding the proper amendments or compost is best done at this point. This will allow it to continue the process of breaking down so it will be available for the seedlings in the coming year.
If you have built your soil up over the years, it is best not to dig too deeply (4"-6") before adding your amendments. Healthy soil contains mycorrhiza, a complex fungal network whose presence is key to enabling the plants to efficiently take up the fertilizer and other nutrients that they need. Digging too deep at this point can disturb or destroy this network. As you turn the new soil under, we recommend adding these mycorrhiza to help the plant's roots take up these vital nutrients.
One of the amendments we like to add at this stage is a high nitrogen bat guano. Incorporating the bat guano into the soil now will give it time to "cool" and evenly distribute throughout the bed. Another beneficial soil amendment to consider is biochar, a ground up charcoal product that increases your soil's moisture retention and nutrient absorption ability while significantly reducing the need for fertilizers by slowing its uptake rate. The result is you'll use less water and fertilizer, at the same time increasing yield.
Once your soil is prepared you can replace the drip system and begin planting a winter cover crop. A green manure crop such as mustard, peas, or radishes may be planted in the Fall and turned under when you are ready to plant in the Spring, improving the soil's structure and enhancing its fertility.
Lastly, laying a mulch of straw or leaves will protect the bed from weed growth and help it retain some warmth through the cold months. In the Spring,this mulch material can be turned into the soil along with the green manure crop to further enrich the soil. Getting a jump on things now will leave you with a sense of satisfaction and the knowledge that your sleeping garden will be healthy and well rested for the coming year. Now you can spend your time perusing that new seed catalog!