Gardeners perform six chores before they say “Nighty-night” to their darlings then turn out the lights until spring.
Clean up debris and trash.
Pull out the annuals’ dead growth, and throw all diseased plants in the trash bin headed for the dump.
Cut up what was healthy old growth, and let it wilt in the sun, and dry in the wind until it turns to straw. Clip it up, and work the material back into the soil. You only need hedge clippers and a garden fork or sharp spade for this chore.
Amend the soil this winter by working in feed store goodies like agricultural diatomaceous earth (D.E.) and molasses; grocery store cornmeal; yard waste like twigs, leaves, grass clippings; herbivore manures; kitchen vegetable scraps, and fireplace ashes or lawn lime.
A WORD to new gardeners: fresh manures stink, rotted manures do not. Never pile fresh manure in the garden at planting time. It contains ammonia that kills just about everything it touches. Leave fresh manure out in the weather for a couple of months before you use it.
Lay 4-6” of mulch over root crops like carrots, onions, and garlic. They have sweet dreams under nature’s brown blanket which decomposes to a thin tillable layer by springtime.
Sweeten up high acid soil with lawn lime or ammonium sulfate in the amount of 1 pound per 1,000 square feet. A thousand square feet is about the size of a pair of two-car garages; that’s a lot of garden so calculate before you apply.
HERE’S THE theory behind these chores.
(1) Old growth is free “organic” fertilizer. The price is right! It decomposes and enriches the soil during the naptime months. “Organic” means old growth contains the element carbon which soil microorganisms and plants use to make sugars for energy.
(2) Sharp hedge clippers are giant scissors that cut a lot of stuff at once.
(3) Root crops stay in the ground until you need them. The insulated garden is a natural root cellar. Mulch traps heat from the ground, and absorbs atmospheric heat. And last, but not least,
(4) microorganisms break down soil amendments and “inorganic” particles (rocks and clays) so plant roots can slurp in the nutrients then later feed us in the form of irresistible vegetables and fruits.
Oh, and don’t forget to give the garden a drink now and then if the winter is dry.
(Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org)