How Does Your Garden Grow?…Winterizing the Garden

I find it difficult to believe that with the fall solstice past us we’re just a short month away from the days becoming longer. Spring will be here before ya know it! However, for most people in the country you’re relishing this season too as its a time now to sit back and relax and enjoy the freedom that comes from a winter reprieve. No more seemingly endless gardening chores to be done in the blazing summer heat. No more hours of processing up veggies for the freezer or sterilizing jars for canning. Now is the time to enjoy all the fruits of your summer labor and hunker down for a long winter’s nap.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective) for us the gardening season in Georgia isn’t quite finished. And while our beds don’t have tons of produce left in them, we’re still able to enjoy a healthy and thriving crop of bibb lettuces, sugar snap peas, fresh cabbages, Ghost peppers (these things just.won’t.die!) and I’m even holding out hope for a few baby brussel sprouts.

The last couple of weekends here have been spent in the garden winterizing containers, weeding the beds, chipping up the compost pile, establishing our worm compost bin as well as setting up a new automatic composter.

About Composting~
We learned recently that our HOA is changing the covenants in a way which will forbid any open compost piles on properties, so we had to make a few adjustments to our compost plan. Thankfully we found this nifty and giant automatic, self-aerating composting bin which will allow us to continue to compost all our green waste plus a myriad of other waste without breaking the HOA regulations. Darned restrictive HOA….

By the way, if you’re into composting (and if you’re gardening you should be), we recently stumbled on a website that lists 75 Things You Can Compost but Thought You Couldn’t. It was amazing to see all the different household waste that can go in your compost pile. Check it out HERE.

About Winterizing~
Winterizing isn’t as hard as it sounds but it is an important step in a healthy garden. Weeding the beds, aerating the soil lightly with a garden fork, working in a small amount of compost, and covering the beds or containers with a thick layer of organic mulch or a large tarp will help to prepare the soil for easier spring planting. We went to our local big-box hardware store and purchased a large roll of heavy mil black plastic and a jumbo ball of twine to use on our containers. We will cover each of the raised beds with the black plastic as well. We spent one whole Saturday just working on our EarthBoxes and buckets, but by next spring these guys will be chalk full of nutrients and ready for the season. (As you can see, the bed they’re sitting on still needs a bit of weeding work!)

Winterizing doesn’t just apply to the outside beds and containers thought. Your tools and equipment will also need to be properly maintained and stored for the winter. Look at all your spades, picks, hoes, rakes, and trowels – are they clean, rust free, and in proper working order? If not, rinse and dry them off. Remove rust spots with a bit of steel wool, and repair any broken or loose handles. The last thing you want to deal with when you’re ready to begin working in the garden next year is improperly maintained tools.

Taking Inventory~
Winter isn’t the time for lollygagging around when it comes to thinking about next season’s garden. This is the time to start planning what fruits and veggies you’re going to grow. Are you going to be adding additional raised beds or containers for next year? If so, now is the time to watch for end of season clearance sales on containers, and lumber generally is less expensive in the winter as fewer contractors have work.

Now is also the time to begin researching seed catalogs and nursery websites. Most seed companies will begin shipping seeds after the first of the year, which will allow you adequate time to start your plants indoors. Starting from seed takes a bit of extra time but is so worth it! Not only is it economically savvy, but you can be absolutely sure you’re getting an organic plant that hasn’t been treated with any growth hormones or pesticides.

It is also a good idea to obtain a heat mat for indoor germination of longer season crops like hot and sweet peppers which need warmer soil temperatures to germinate. Have you looked at your seed starter kits in a while? Are the domes and trays still intact? Do you have enough seed starter pellets? What are you going to do with your transplants before they go into the garden? Are your grow lights in proper working order? So many things to consider before next spring arrives, but if you take care of these things now you’ll be ready to roll once the frost breaks and you can get back outside.

The Indoor Garden~
For those of you who are die hard gardening fanatics (like us) you’re getting revved up for the indoor gardening season. Herbs, cherry tomatoes, lettuces, and even small cucumbers and squash can be grown indoors in pots and hydroponic or aeroponic kits. This year I wasn’t ready to compost my herbs but needed a place for them to get plenty of light and yet be out of the way. I have a whole wall of south facing windows that was just begging to be used, so I purchased a few pieces of pine, took some measurements, drew out a plan, and constructed a simple herb bench. While it’s fairly primitive in construction it fits the bill perfectly. My herbs are now getting plenty of indoor sunshine and we’re still enjoying their tasty foliage.

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