Fall Harvest of Onions and Shallots
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Wow, the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting cooler……. After the long summer, it’s time to prepare your garden for fall and winter.

Here are some simple but necessary steps to . 

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant.”

Anne Bradstreet 

Winters can be bitter for our gardens, so we need to spend a reasonable amount of time preparing them for the cold months ahead by making the garden bed a restful place for our plants to stay.

Protecting all garden perennials, garden beds, raised beds, landscaping and yard vegetation in winter is extremely important.

Here are 9 simple steps and ideas that you need to take during the fall months as winter approaches. After the last of the harvest in late October or early November, you will want to leave your garden and plants with the best chance of surviving the winter without any worries.


1. Clean-Up all the Remains

The first thing you need to do is clean up your garden.  The summer season has gone by and some of the plants have already died back. Make sure all roots crops like potatoes, carrots, turnips, and beets have been dug.

Lettuces, kale, chard, and brassicas can withstand frost. So, wait to get the last harvests before the frost sets in. If you have chickens, toss any and all extras to them as they will love rummaging through your leftover garden plants. They especially love the leftover lettuces and greens

Related: Chicken Coop Ideas for Raising the Best Chickens & Eggs

After that, while it may be sad to do so, pull out the dead annual plants and their roots, so you can prepare your soil and make room for new ones. The annual plants and vegetables that are now dead will all need to be pulled out before the ground freezes.

Some people like to till their old plants under to add biomass to the garden but only do this with disease-free vegetation.

I actually dig out some kale and chard to transplant them in my greenhouse to extend the harvest. You can do this or offer extra protection with cold frames.

It is hard for me to let go of my greens so I try to eke out a couple more weeks by extending my growing season every way I can.

plants in garden pot

Be Careful with Diseased Plants and Weeds

Summer heat also leads to plant diseases of the roots and foliage. You don’t want to leave behind such plants in your garden. It is extremely important to protect your garden by removing all diseased plants. It’s best to burn these plants or take them to a landfill.

Do not put diseased vegetation in your compost pile unless you monitor the heat index to make sure the pathogens are destroyed. Here is a product that helps activate the compost pile for proper composting.

Quick Note: make sure to remove all plants that might reseed themselves……this especially applies to weeds! Dig out all weeds by the roots. Do not let any of the weeds in your garden go to seed……pull all weeds before they go to seed and throw away or feed to your chickens if you have some.

I really enjoy planting a few sunflowers in my vegetable garden as I think they are fun to grow and impressive looking but do not let them reseed themselves!!! Or, you will have oodles of sunflowers growing in your garden next spring!

2. Prepare Your Soil

Your soil is the soul of your garden. In order to begin preparing your garden for winter, turn the soil over. By turning it over, you can sort out all the weeds and remains of the dead plants from under the soil.

Add compost, old rotted manure, and leaves that will rest in the soil and thus prepare the garden for your spring harvest. Also, make sure to run a simple at-home pH test on your garden soil. Correct and rebalance if necessary.

Soil amendments increase the organic matter of the soil structure while enriching the nutrients. These things are super important.

Developing rich garden soil takes time; rich soil will increase the strength and hardiness of each plant plus will greatly increase the nutritional value of your produce.

Pro Tip: the rule of thumb is to feed the soil not the plants!

This pro tip is super important as it underscores the importance of soil health. The plants “know” what to do. Their roots grow down and the tops grow up.

Their leaves draw energy from the sun and the roots draw water and nutrients from the soil. It seems elementary but this is the fundamental process.

Everything works well unless something is missing.

Healthy soil is key. There are several factors to consider when evaluating your garden location and the available dirt. The location is also key; the dirt can be amended to create garden soil but the location is hard to move…….so start by picking a good spot for your garden.

Here are a couple of quick reads on how to create healthy garden soil and the importance of implementing a garden crop rotation cycle.

garden in fall
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3. Sow a Winter Cover Crops

Consider planting a winter cover crop in early fall. Cover crops protect your garden soil from the harsh elements of winter plus they provide nutrients to your soil.

It is best to plant these green manures or cover crops in late summer to encourage vigorous growth but early fall plantings will also work depending on your USDA Growing Zone.

Try this all-purpose mix:  Cover Crop Blend.

4. Rearrange & Prune the Perennials

Next, this is the time to rearrange, divide and transplant all your perennial plants such as perennial walking onions, chives, and herbs. 

This also applies to all flowering bulbs and tubers such as tulips and irises. Trim them back by cutting their tops, once they have turned brown and died back..

Allow the leaves to die back naturally prior to trimming as the energy from the leaves returns to the bulbs and tubers.

Also, prune blueberry bushes and remove old cane from raspberry plants.

This way, your garden will look neat and tidy. Protect the roots and leave them alone until the next spring. Collect any seeds on your perennial plants and save them in a paper bag to plant in March, April or May.

5. Protection for Perennial Plants 

If you have perennial plants, vines, bushes or trees in your garden or yard, you need to also prepare them for the winter season. Since fall can bring strong winds, young or exposed plants can take a beating causing the stems to break and “winter kill”.

This term winter-kill is the drying out of plants from extreme exposure.

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Offer protection from the windward side for all young perennials plants and trees. Simple stakes and burlap can offer some protection. Even hay or straw bales can be used on the windward side.

There are many creative ways to support trees, vines, shrubs, and plants. Wires and nursery twine can help offer bracing while fabric tree wraps offer winter wind and sun protection.

This type of protective layer can be used to shield your shrubs and trees from winter damage. Make sure to remove winter wraps from all your trees in the spring.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to water on warm sunny days during the late fall and winter! If the ground is dry and cracked around your perennial shrubs and trees, pull out a few hoses and just water enough so it seeps into the grounds without puddling.

fall garden

6. Renew and Replenish Mulch

Look around you at the falling leaves……these are perfect for adding to your garden. Leaves are a natural and usually free source of organic matter to add to your garden.

They can be lightly forked under or used as a top dressing on your perennial plants and in your garden beds. Discover more ideas on mulch and mulching here.

The earthworms will do the work of breaking them down into useable nutrients. I have always marveled at the stored nutrients in leaves. Just think about it……trees and bushes draw natural nutrients from deep in the ground.

These nutrients are then made available to you. Adding these leaves bring the vast richness of nutrients back to the surface to enrich your garden soil and thus plants and vegetables.

This type of mulch or top-dressing also helps protect your soil from water and wind erosion during the harsh winter months. 

Talk about reuse, recycle and renew!!! This is the perfect combination of organic gardens!!

prepare garden for winter

7. Gather Garden Tools

Fall is the perfect time to gather all your garden tools and get them cleaned up, oiled and stored away (in one place) for the winter. It is so nice to be able to run and grab a shovel or hoe and know it will be in the shed or storage area, cleaned and ready to go!

Take all your tools and knock off all the dirt. Spray with water to clean and let dry. Make sure they are completely dry. If rusty, clean with steel wool or sandpaper. Do not put them away full of wet mud or dirt. Knock off all dirt and spray off all mud. Again, keeping your tools dry is the best measure. 

Sharpened hoes and shovels with a fine file or sharpening stone to bring the edge back.

Sand the wooden handles every couple of years or so and rub with linseed oil to restore and protect the wood.

Shovel and Rake

8. Watering in Fall

Make sure to water all your perennial plants to include: trees, shrubs, bushes, raspberry canes, strawberry plants, onions, chives, flowers, and herbs. It is vitally important that your perennial plants have moisture in the ground as they are going dormant.

As the ground freezes, the extra water in the ground will freeze around the roots and root zone to ensure they are all covered. When roots are not covered and are exposed to air, they die.

It is extremely important to make sure there is ample moisture in the ground prior to winter’s freezing temperatures setting in. As important as this is, it is equally important to not allow water to puddle on the surface of the ground as this can suffocate the plants and trees.

Keep a watchful eye out if there is no snow cover. On warmer winter days, if the ground seems dry, water the surface of the ground around your perennial plants. Water just enough to allow it to seep into the ground. Do not allow the water to puddle on the surface of the ground. Your plants will love you!

9. Keep a Journal ~ Make Notes!

Keeping a simple garden journal helps notate dates, tips and ideas plus to list the chores that need to done or that have been completed. Remember to list successes as well as problems and remedies. List ideas for next year’s vegetables and flowers that you want to try.

Quickly sketch this year’s garden crop location and make a list of garden layouts and crop rotation ideas for next year.

Also, make notes to investigate Planting by the Moon!

cottage in winter

TAKE a SNEAK PEEK to get a jump on summer gardening tips.……..

All the best this fall as you work preparing your garden for fall and winter! You will be so happy with your garden in spring with the work you did this fall!

Make sure to do a diy home soil pH test and correct any problems that you find.


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