Dr. Z: Winter Garden Chores

With the arrival of November and the end of the growing season there are still many chores to be done.  The goals are to put the garden to sleep for the winter while prepping it for next spring.
One place to start is the vegetable garden.  Once all the planted material has been cleared, compost or manure can be worked into the soil and sit there over the winter.  Another practice that can help revitalize the soil is to plant a cover crop like winter rye or buckwheat for the winter.  These will grow and protect the soil from erosion and wind, and will prevent weeds from growing.  Turn it over in the spring to feed the soil.  Cover crops are called "green manure".
When preparing garden beds for winter with plants already in them (shrubs, perennials, etc.) the introduction of phosphate and potassium to the soil is very beneficial.  Adding phosphates (bone meal, rock phosphate) encourages root growth.  The increased root structure will allow plants to absorb more water and nutrients for winter survival.  Adding potassium (greensand, kelp meal, wood ashes) increases the overall vigor of plants to help them deal with stresses in their environment.  Potassium will also make plants more resistant to insects, disease, and drought damage.
Applying mulch in the autumn will help keep the soil consistently cool.  Remember that mulch is supposed to keep the soil cold in order to prevent temperature swings which will produce problems like heaving.  So wait for a cool down before applying mulch in the fall.  Plants that have been mulched in the fall survive the winter better.  If mulch is already present in the beds, clear some away (about 2 to 3 inches) from the crown of the shrub to help the whole plant acclimate to the cooler temperatures.  After a few weeks replace it before winter sets in.
Call or come visit Dr.Z to have all your gardening questions answered.

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