What to do with garden beds for winter?

Asked December 11, 2016, 5:26 PM EST

Hi, The fall got away from us and we haven't done anything to prepare our garden beds for winter. Do you have recommendations? We still have old tomato plants etc in the beds. Should we cover the soil? We don't plan to plant again until the spring. Thanks.

Washington County Oregon gardening garden maintenance

1 Response

Thanks for your question. I'm sorry it has taken so long to get your question answered, since we now have a healthy supply of snow on the ground! There are a couple of things you can do, but prepare for next winter with this information.

In the fall, we recommend mulching your gardens, since it adds organic material that microbes in the soil can start to break down, and provide food (nutrients) for your new plants in the spring. The other benefit of mulch is that it protects the soil from rain and snow, each of which compact the soil and push out the air that's necessary for water to drain through, and get nutrients to plant roots. So, we're too late for the 'snow protection' part. However, once the snow has melted, you can still apply mulch--home made or purchased--to protect and nourish for the remainder of winter.

You don't have to worry about pulling up your tomato plants, or any other plant that's not a weed or has a tap root. (A carrot tap root that is left in the ground will grow new leaves next year, and produce seeds.) The dead vegetables will, in a less substantial manner than mulch, help to protect the soil and will start to break down.

Oregon State Extension website is down, or I'd direct you to one of their many publications on the topic. (And you might want to Google it on Monday.) In the meantime, here's a link to an article that relies on an OSU horticulturalist.

Hope this is helpful. Good luck!