How to Keep Your Garden Active

pic_05Composting and Mulching

Although your yard and garden may look like it’s in a state of hibernation during the winter months, there are important things taking place all year long in the garden that contribute to the overall health of your plants. For example, your soil is active all year long, and your evergreen plants continue to use nutrients. Thus, it’s important that you replenish nutrients in the soil for the next growing season. Composting is a great way to do this.

If you compost, you should continue to monitor your compost pile during the fall and winter. Turning your compost pile and adding organic material is an important fall and winter gardening activity. You can also consider building a compost trench at this time. These trenches can be planted during the next gardening season with plants that like lots of organic material, such as beans.

If you’re not sure how to compost, you can read this excellent compost guide for more information. You can also review a large selection of products for composting here.

Mulching is another good activity for winter. Spreading out a layer of mulch over your garden will protect your garden soil from the elements and will help any plants growing in your garden. Mulch helps to insulate your plants’ roots. Additionally, mulch will keep winter weeds from taking hold. A 3-4 inch layer of organic mulch such as shredded bark or wood chips will work well. Please read this guide to mulching for more tips.

Cover Crops and Green Manure

If you live in an area with a proper climate, you can consider planting cover crops such as clover, rye or vetch. These crops can add organic material to the soil for next growing season. Legumes such as vetch will also fix nitrogen in the soil. Plant these crops in the late fall. Cover crops are also known as “green manures.” This website from Washington State University has lots of info on using cover crops/green manures.

Natural Pest Control

Late February is a good time to try out an organic herbicide. When sprinkled throughout your garden, corn gluten meal will naturally prevent annual weeds from growing from seed. Dr. Howard Garrett, the “Dirt Doctor,” highly recommends using corn gluten meal to both fertilize your plants and to prevent weeds from coming up in the spring.

Weeds that appear in the winter such as henbit and bluegrass can also be prevented with corn gluten meal. Spread it out during the late fall and early winter. Water the corn meal thoroughly after you apply it so that it won’t attract animals.

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