Hello Homestead: How to Prepare a Raised Garden Bed for Winter

This article from Hello Homestead includes a step on adding season extenders like the cold frames discussed in an earlier post. Getting that garden properly put to bed for the winter (or keeping it working over winter) is not accomplished by stopping gardening for the winter, much though that might appeal.

How to prepare a raised garden bed for winter

Photo by Gabor Degre

When the gardening season comes to an end, it is easy to get distracted from the pre-frost clean-up. Learning how to prepare a raised garden bed for winter, though, is essential to prepare for the season to come, even when spring is months away.

Throughout autumn, gardeners with raised beds should take several steps to ensure their garden beds are ready for next year’s seeds and seedling transplants.

“It’s an ongoing project,” said Kate Garland, horticultural specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. “I just always think of it as a to-do list for the fall.”

Properly caring for raised garden beds before winter settles in will promote soil health, ward off weeds and prevent diseases in next year’s crops. Here is how to prepare a raised garden bed for winter.

Step 1: Remove weeds

Photo by Gabor Degre

Weeding is essential well into the fall, even when the majority of your crops have stopped growing. Not only can untended autumn weeds harbor disease, but they can lay the roots for future weed problems.

“This is when people are ready to be done with weeding, but this is probably one of the most important times of year to be weeding,” Garland warned. “A lot of our weeds are setting seed right now. Some of the seeds can stay viable for 30 to 40 years or longer.”

For the parts of your raised bed that’s simply carpeted in weeds, cover them with black plastic or a layer of cardboard and leave it in place through the winter season to choke out existing weeds and suffocate sprouting weeds.

Some gardeners will till the soil to prevent weeds and expose harmful pests, but Garland suggests avoiding tillage in your raised beds as much as you can for the sake of soil health.

“There are some scenarios where [tilling] can make sense, but it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense in raised bed settings [unless the soil is really compacted],” Garland said. “If you can avoid tilling as much as possible, your soil and your gardens will thrive in the long run.”

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