Posted on 13 October 2008 by urbangardencasual.com

Putting Your Urban Garden to Bed: Say Goodnight, Gracie

By Cindy Naas

It’s nearly that time of the year, much as I hate to say it.

It’s time to start thinking about putting the garden to bed for the winter.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as the days get colder. By using some of these ideas, your soil or planters will be in great shape for planting next spring.

1. Mulch – Yes, even in a vegetable garden, winter mulching is a good idea. Giving the soil a good covering of manure or compost will add needed nutrients to the soil and will also prevent some weeds from taking over the space. Spread manure or compost about 2 inches deep.

2. Compost – if you have the room, starting a small compost pile directly on the earth will do great things for your soil. Allowing a compost pile to ‘cook’ over the winter will really improve the texture and nutrient quality of your gardens.

3. Green manure – Consider growing a green mulch. Alfalfa, timothy or even plain old peas make a great green manure crop even for the small garden. If you choose this option, plant and water in the seed, keeping very well watered until the seeds sprout. After that, allow the cover crop to grow for at least six weeks before tilling it all under. If you don’t have a tiller, take out your shovel and turn the garden by hand. Allowing the green cover crop to compost in place makes for a wonderfully healthy soil. This can be done in large or small gardens and even in larger planters.

4. Planters – Compost a small amount of fruit and veggie scraps directly in the pots. Water them in, and leave them in a place which gets as much sunlight as possible. Don’t forget to dig it through the entire planter’s soil in the spring.

5. Leaves – Mow over a big bundle of fallen leaves a couple of times, and spread the ground leaves over the garden. Although rotting leaves don’t add a lot of nutrients to the soil, that will lighten the texture of the soil and will also prevent erosion during heavy rains/snow melt of the season.

Thinking about next spring’s garden now will make for a much healthier garden as well as encourage you to plan for that first spring planting.

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