Winterizing With Compost

It’s that time of year again. Your garden has been harvested, your plants are starting to wither in the cold temperatures, and the snow is coming (at lease here in Fort Collins, Colorado it is!). So what can you do in the fall to prepare your garden and plants for next spring? Winterize! There are a few steps and options, so keep reading and decide what would be best for your outdoor areas.

1. Pull out or cut down your plants.

Some people prefer to pull the whole plant out, roots and all, as it will keep anything from popping up in the spring that you may not want in that location anymore. Others like to cut their plants at the base near the ground (no till), keeping the intricate root system in place with all the life it has been able to create and grow in the soil. If you have perennial plants that will come back next year, make sure you do this and not pull the whole plant out. What works best for other plants, like vegetables, is personal preference, so decide which way you would like to tackle getting rid of your plants this season. To build a true living soil, you’ll want to practice no till to keep the fungal hyphae networks intact over the winter season.

2. Weed.

Certain gardeners weed throughout the season, and others do not (I am somewhere in the middle, if we are being honest). Once the season has ended however, all those weeds should come out. Even dead, brown foliage can harbor pest eggs throughout the winter (and freezing temperatures) and allow pests to hatch in the spring, right in your garden area. Also, leaving weeds over winter will allow them to grow back in the spring (even stronger!), as the seed pods are made to last through harsh winters. This means more weeds next season, and that is something no gardener wants! To prevent this, get rid of all foliage, weeds included. Dig for the roots if you can.

3. Rake.

Raking should be done for two reasons; leaves and the top of your soil. Raking up those leaves and putting them into a pile will help the leaves break down faster, turning it into “leaf mold”, and producing a great topping for your soil areas. You can just leave them in a pile and they will start composting all by themselves. If you would like to help the process a bit, mulch your leaves first with a mulcher or a lawnmower. Then you can put a tarp over them to keep it a bit warmer, or cover them will hay, straw, or dirt. Second, after you remove all the foliage in your garden areas as previously described, rake the top soil where your plants were. This will aerate the top soil, keeping those good soil organisms happy and healthy. 

4. “Blanket” your beds.

After raking through the top soil, your garden is ready to be covered for winter. Put a layer of compost on the top, about 3″-6″ deep. This is going to keep your garden soil warmer, add nutrients throughout the winter, and allow those good soil organisms to continue creating a great habitat for new plants. To keep your bed even warmer and healthier, add another layer of mulched leaves, or even that leaf mold we talked about earlier, on top of the compost. Lastly, you can put a tarp or other covering over your soil areas if wanted, but it’s not necessary. Good soil is built in above freezing temperatures – try to insulate!

5. Results

When you uncover your beds next spring, you will see dark, moist, fertile earth ready for planting! You can even add more compost at this time to bring some fresh, new nutrients to your soil, or you can plant as is. Since compost is an all-natural fertilizer, you can amend your soil twice a year with it, with no cause for concern. 

If you are looking for compost, check out Compost Queen’s compost! All made locally with only natural and organic materials, our compost will surely be great for whatever you are planting!