Winter Garden Prep

A little more mulch will add a layer of insulation to your garden during winter.

Whether this is your first year with a home garden or you’re a garden veteran, reaching the end of the growing season with more knowledge, experience and a fridge full of food is something to be proud of.

In a few months, as summer starts to fade, you’ll have one final task before your job’s really finished. Properly prepping your home garden for winter makes opening it up again in the spring that much easier. So grab your tools: It’s time to finish strong.

Pluck stragglers

Don’t leave any vegetables hanging out in your plot. Remove near-ripe crops from their plants and harvest herbs – the goal is to salvage anything you can so that nothing goes to waste.

Clear out clutter

Cut perennials down to soil level and dig any remaining plants out by the roots, chopping them up to live a second life as winter mulch. If you noticed any diseases lurking in your garden this season, make sure those plants are entirely dug up and destroyed, or bacteria could lie in wait and attack again in the spring. If you’re transferring herbs or other plants inside, be sure to inspect them for bugs and disease beforehand. Turn your soil over gently to loosen it up and get rid of any remaining pests that may also be trying to bed down for the winter.

Weed, one more time

It may be tempting to ignore them, but nabbing any defiant weeds now means they won’t have a chance to spread while you’re not looking. Weed your garden one more time, yanking anything out that you can see, and remember to keep them clear of your compost pile so they don’t take root there. 


By this time, your garden is exhausted; throwing a light layer of compost down for the winter replenishes the soil’s nutrients.

Don’t forget the mulch!

Top your dormant beds with mulch to stop soil erosion during wet winter weather and add a layer of insulation to keep anything you still have in the ground snug during hard freezes.

Clean your tools

There’s nothing more frustrating than getting pumped for your first gardening tasks of the new growing season, only to find your tools covered with crusted dirt and debris. Wash your tools now and organize them in a safe spot, where you can easily get to them when it’s time to get back to work. 

Take notes

Your final task? Take notes about this year’s growing season. What did you enjoy? What plants grew best in your home garden? What was too tough to manage? Would you do anything differently? Putting your thoughts on paper will help you set out next spring with a clear memory and a solid foundation upon which to build your next garden. 

Shannon Weber is the creator, author and photographer behind the award-winning, and her work has appeared on websites such as Bon Appétit, Serious Eats and America’s Test Kitchen.

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