Summer gardening has come to a close and it’s time to do some clean up in the garden. Particularly the raised garden beds.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…
Why would I spend time undoing a garden that won’t be touched for months anyway?
And why would I give myself more work if the gardening season is done?
Simply put, you need to clean up a mess before it gets worse.
Think about it. Would you prefer to clean it all up in the fall as soon as it’s said and done with? Give it some more nutrients to enrich the soil to be primed and ready for spring planting?
Or would you rather wait to get to it until spring? The garden is an utter mess and a particularly wet winter has made everything sludgy and mucky. Oh, and the soil is not prepared for gardening. You now have to clean it out, add organic matter to enrich the soil, and then wait a few more weeks until you can plant anything. This, in turn, shortens the entire gardening season.
So, it just makes sense to get it done in the fall time.
Just think of it as that one last gardening chore that will fully pay off come spring.
Why prep raised beds for winter months?
Keeps pests away
Amends soil for optimum health
Wards off weeds
As you can see, prepping the garden for colder months is not done for no reason. There is a method to my madness, afterall!
So, let’s get into all the details about how to prepare raised beds for winter…
How to Prepare Raised Beds for Winter
Remove weeds and dead plants | how to prepare raised beds for winter
First, you will want to remove any weeds and dead plants leftover from the summer gardening. Basically, you are giving yourself a clean slate by clearing it all out and giving the soil some space to breathe.
Grab some gloves and pull out any plants and weeds by the base so you get the roots as well. Cleaning this debris out will not only give it a cleaner appearance, but will also take away any spots for pests to hide and harbor in over the winter.
Remove plant supports and stakes | how to prepare raised beds for winter
Next, remove any stakes or other plant supports from the raised beds. Be sure to save these for next year so you can save some money and resources. Wipe them down, tie them together into one pile, and keep them in a plastic bin and they’ll be good as new.
Add organic material | how to prepare raised beds for winter
It’s a good idea to add some organic material to your garden to decompose over the next few months to feed the soil. It’s important to balance the pH of the soil and enrich it with nitrogen.
You can use several different materials:
Homemade compost from kitchen scraps
Store bought mushroom compost
Plant cover crops | how to prepare raised beds for winter
One thing I’ll be adding to my raised beds this year are some clover seeds that I’ll germinate and then eventually overwinter. In spring, we’ll mow it down so it breaks down into the soil.
Crops like clover are special in that they don’t deplete the soil but actually enrich it with nitrogen. This is so beneficial to soil and your raised beds will be nice and happy come spring. You won’t need to manage them much at this time, but be prepared to weed whack or mow them when the weather starts to warm up in spring and let them further compost into the soil a couple of weeks before planting any spring crops.
Protect perennial plants | how to prepare raised beds for winter
You may not be growing any perennials in your raised beds and that’s fine. But if you are, now is the time to put these to rest for the winter too. They will overwinter on their own, but if you want to keep them going through the winter some herbs like chives, sage, or oregano will benefit from row cover to prevent frost damage. You’ll be harvesting through the cold season. If you opt not to, they will become dormant until spring weather triggers them to come back to life.
Check for and make repairs to raised beds | how to prepare raised beds for winter
Don’t forget to also check the raised garden beds for any loose boards, nails sticking out, or shifting boards. This can be dangerous or could lead to the raised beds breaking apart later. I recommend fixing them now in the fall, but if you think it can wait until spring you can always take note of it in a gardening journal and get to it first thing when the weather warms up.