Most people do not think a lot about gardening in the winter. Crops have already been harvested and remaining plants have died off.
However, winter is actually a good time time to start preparing your garden soil to receive the upcoming years crops.
I have heard many “old time” gardeners say “gardening is a year round job”.
I never understood what that really meant until I started gardening myself on a larger scale, but that saying is very true.
In this article, I am going to cover some ideas that will help you get your garden area fertile and ready for early spring planting.
Why Prepare Garden Soil In The Winter?
There are several reasons that it is a good idea to start getting your garden area and beds ready for planting during the winter months.
One is, in most cases the garden has already been harvested and plants are beginning to or have already died off.
This gives you the opportunity to completely “strip” the garden and really aerate and turn the soil.
Turning the soil in the winter can also be beneficial especially in areas where it freezes. This allows the soil to go through the natural “winter phase” which has been proven in the case of seeds allowed to freeze over the winter, to make the plants from these seeds very healthy and productive.
Another huge benefit to working the ground through the winter is that it keeps the ground from becoming hard packed.
This can be especially problematic in some areas when planting season arrives.
It is common knowledge to most gardeners, many weeds grow right through the winter.
This also makes winter a good time to till, treat, and remove weeds from soil because most of the garden crops have already been removed.
How Many Times During The Winter Should You Work Your Garden Soil?
Here at Southern Homesteading, we usually till the soil at least two times during the winter and again right before planting.
The reason we go over ours twice is because we have a few gardens that have high sand levels.
These are usually reserved for peas and okra for example. But it gives a good opportunity to really mix in the organic fertilizer we use.
It also gives the fertilizer plenty of time to break down into the soil, preventing the chance of “burning” the plants if fertilized right at planting time.
Depending on the area you live in, you may not be able to work in the soil quite as much due to it staying frozen throughout most of the winter.
This is not a big deal. However, it is advisable to get a jump on it when the ground thaws and begins to dry. This will make planting time much easier. .
What Should You Do To The Soil During The Winter?
This is the perfect time to start fertilizing. Many people who have to rake leaves during the fall add them to their garden.
Tilling the soil will help speed up the process of breaking down that the leaves go through and get them more finely mixed into the soil.
If you are using organic fertilizers such as chicken litter, this is a good time to add it and mix it into the soil.
Chicken litter, although being an excellent fertilizer, can be a nightmare if added too close to planting and has not had an opportunity to adequately break down.
The same holds true with many other fertilizers. This is why it is recommended to fertilize the soil well in advance of planting.
If you have a compost pile, and most gardeners do, it is a good time to start adding this material to the garden area and beds. This will help speed up the breakdown process and insure the fertilizer is adequately mixed.
By adding your fertilizers during this time, it allows you to put back valuable nutrients that may have been taken out during the past years growing season and gives organic fertilizers time to break down.
Best Way To Work The Soil During The Winter Months
If you are working a large area, a tiller or even a tractor can be your best friend.
This will allow you to effectively work your fertilizer to the recommended 2-3 inch depth.
For smaller gardens and beds, there are many different garden tools that can help you get your fertilizer mixed and soil well aerated.
We like to use a “garden claw’. This garden tool works very well on loose or packed soil. It also works very well around plants to remove weeds and grass.
Whatever your choice of garden tool is, it is important to use it! We tend to get somewhat laid back in the winter months but it is the perfect time to get prepared.
There are people that may think you are crazy if they see you out in the garden in the middle of winter working.
When you reap the benefits of this small amount of added labor at planting time, you will see it was definitely worth it.
We hope this article has been informative and has given you something to think about.
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