By Kristen Rice
Winter is just about here! The fall harvest has come and gone, which means it is the perfect time to prepare your garden for the cold winter months. Here are some tips from Ed Mitinger, PHS Community Gardens Manager, for tucking your garden into bed for its long winter nap. Protecting and preparing your garden now will ensure that it is healthy and ready to start over when you plant seeds or seedlings in the spring.
"If you spot any weeds that are still growing in your garden, remove them now," says Mitinger. This will prevent rotting over the winter, as well as deter pests from nesting. Weeds can hibernate in the winter just like your plants can, so ripping them out now can prevent them from returning in the spring. This same principle goes for other pests in the garden: prevention first!
In order to have a healthy and thriving garden next spring, remove any old annuals still in the ground. Annuals are plants that typically die in one season. Since the season is coming to an end, rip these plants out and throw them in a compost bin. Watch Ed in the video below as he works to prepare garden beds for winter at the PHS Pop Up Garden at Manayunk.
Do you have any old sunflower heads or marigolds? Don’t forget to remove their seeds so you can grow them next spring. Seal seeds in an envelope, label them, and store them in a refrigerator or other cool, dry location. Then plant per the planting instructions after the chance of frost each morning has lessened.
Make sure you insulate your garden to protect your plants from frost. Leaf mulch is a great insulator. Don't worry about buying mulch -- just use your existing leaves. Read more about the benefits of leaves in our post on this topic. "My favorite insulation is chopped-up leaves," says Mitinger.
For vulnerable plants that are at risk of freezing over the winter, wrap a plastic bag or a burlap sack around them to prevent frostbite. If your plants are too vulnerable for the cold, you can dig them up and keep them as a houseplant in a warm, controlled environment, until the weather warms up outside. If you have a greenhouse or space indoors, move your potted plants and containers inside as well.
By following these simple steps, you'll be creating a healthy, ready-to-plant garden bed next spring. To learn more about gardening, connect with other gardeners, and help keep public landscapes throughout Philadelphia beautiful for all to enjoy, considering supporting PHS!