Don't Head Into Winter Without Putting Your Garden to Bed

| 11/16/2016 12:00:00 AM

Do you like to weed? No, I don’t either! But by leaving weeds in your garden now, you are creating even bigger problems for yourself next year. As winter approaches, many annual weeds are making their last effort to spread their seeds before they die. Don’t let them!!  Each plant can yield thousands of seeds which remain viable in your soil for up to 7 years. That can mean a lot of weeding in your future! Save yourself some effort and pull them now, before they go to seed.

While you’re at it, pull out perennial weeds as well, especially grass. These will only get stronger over the winter and make your life difficult in spring when it is time to plant. It can take months for your soil to freeze completely (if it does) and for your perennial weeds to go dormant for the winter. During this time they are taking advantage of your empty garden to spread.

The only perennial weed I don’t pull is dandelion because I love to eat the mild greens in the spring. Dandelion leaves are extremely nutritious, particularly vitamins A, C, K, and calcium, iron, potassium and manganese. They are very fortifying and cleansing for your body after a winter of heavy eating. I love to eat them in salad or cook them like spinach.

Although it may seem like nothing is happening in your garden over the winter, all kinds of things are happening beneath the soil. Soil life slows down as the temperature dips down, but it does remain somewhat active. These microbes process organic matter, turning it into rich soil for next year’s garden. When the soil finally freezes, they go dormant, waiting for thaw to start working again.

But if there is no organic matter, there is nothing for them to eat and you won’t have as many. Your soil will not be as biologically active and your garden next year will suffer. So be kind to your microbes and feed them. They love green things and non-diseased garden waste is ideal because it is already in your garden. Diseased plant material should be thrown away outside of your garden to prevent it from coming back next year.

Chop up the plant material so it is more available for the microbes to work on. I love to use a machete for this. I go to town, chopping and whacking, getting out all my frustrations and working up a nice sweat. It feels great in the cool autumn air and afterwards I feel more peaceful and centered. You can also use a sharp shovel or pruning shears, but you might not get the same psychological benefits.

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