Brrrr, it’s getting cold outside! You can feel it, and rest assured, your garden feels it too. It’s time to clean up your summer garden and get your winter garden designs ready. With a bit of garden maintenance and prep, you can protect your precious garden plants and soil over the cold winter and start spring gardening as soon as that last frost thaws.
Here are our winter gardening tips to get your garden ready for winter planting or hibernation:
End of season is an excellent time to clean up and weed your garden. You get rid of your dead or dried up summer plants and produce and prepare your soil for winter planting. Here’s what to clean:
Clean up annuals and finished fruit or vegetable-bearing plants. They will likely become home to unwanted pests and critters if left behind. Remove your annual plantings and add them to your compost.
Prune shrubs, perennials, and trees. Give your perennials a “haircut” before winter. This helps them stay under control and prepares them to grow faster when spring arrives. Cut off spent blooms and dead branches. If you keep dead foliage on these plants, the plant puts more energy into reviving them rather than growing new shoots and branches. Some plants should be trimmed, while others will thrive better over the colder months when cut back significantly.
Weed and rake leaves: Over the fall, as leaves begin to drop, you can choose to add them to your curbside compost collection or mulch them slightly and use them as ground cover and nutrients for your winter plants. It also acts as an insulator to prevent the ground and roots from getting too cold. If you have a home composting system, these fallen leaves make for great layers in your compost bin, creating even richer compost soil to add to your garden next season. If you don’t have leaves, buy some mulch to protect the base of any winter plants.
Cover sensitive plants: If you have any delicate plants you want to survive the winter, cover them with burlap and wrap with string. This will provide some protection against the harsh winter elements.
Clean and store garden tools: You’ll likely not be needing your garden tools much over the winter. Now is a good time to clean and dry them (to avoid rust) and give them a sharpening if needed. If any need repairing, do those repairs now. This way, when spring comes, you can start planting without delay.
Drain and store garden hose: Always bleed your garden hose lines and exterior pipe bibs before storing them. If water remains and freezes, it’ll damage your hose and your water pipes and bibs may burst.
Fertilize your lawn: To keep your grass healthy all winter long, give them some end-of-season fertilizer and one last haircut.
Plant cover crops
If you’re leaving parts (or all) of your gardens empty over the winter, keep the soil fresh and healthy by planting cover crops. Their roots will help the soil stay together so it doesn’t wash away in winter and spring rains.
Great cover crops for Vancouver winter garden designs include Red Clover, Fava bean, and Alfalfa. When spring comes, turn over the soil and allow the nutrients of these cover crops to give your spring and summer garden a good starting boost.
Plant your winter and spring plants
Many garden vegetables actually thrive in the fall and winter. Here are some pacific west coast favourites you can plant in September and October:
Parsley (for harvesting throughout winter and spring)
Turnips (for fall and winter harvests)
Arugula (for fall, winter, and spring harvests)
Bok Choy (for winter and spring harvests)
Lettuce (for fall and winter harvests)
Mache (Corn Salad) (for fall, winter, and spring harvests)
Spinach (for fall and winter)
Plan for next season
The “slower” winter garden season is a great time to start planning what you want to plant and do with your garden and yardscaping for the next season. Maybe next season, you want to include edible flowers and plants in your garden.
Here are some great edible flowers you could add to your spring and summer garden:
Basil: Did you know you can eat its flowers in addition to its leaves?
Calendula: These bright yellowish-orange flowers range from peppery to bitter and are great in soups and salads.
Chamomile: These daisy-like flowers are edible and can be used fresh or dried. They make a great calming tea or as a salad topping.
Chives: The flowery tips of chives or green onions are edible and add great colour to your food.
Clover: With a mild licorice flavour, these are best taken from tender sprouts as mature flowers can be bitter and cause bloat.
Dandelion: The greens and yellow flowers are edible. Avoid harvesting these in public places like the roadside, as they may have been exposed to harmful chemicals.
Garlic: Fully bloomed garlic flowers provide a mild garlic flavour. You can harvest its flowers, scapes, and bulbs.
Johnny-Jump-Up: These beautiful flowers are a mix of purple, yellow and white and have a slight wintergreen taste. Try them with the whole flower intact on a cake or with soft cheeses.
Mint: The classic, easy-to-grow mint plant has small, white edible flowers that vary from sweet to lemon and even chocolate. (Hint: grow mint in a container, or it’ll take over your garden. Trust us!)
Garden peas: The purple leaves on this popular garden vegetable plant are great as a garnish.
When picking edible flowers, here are a few tips:
Pick them early in the morning (this is when they have their highest water content)
Store them in a sealed container on some dampened paper towel for up to 1 week in the fridge)
Revive wilted flowers by floating them in ice water for a few minutes
Prepare them as close to eating as possible to preserve freshness.
Are you ready to take your garden to the next level?
Have you ever imagined a self-sustaining home garden where you could grow fruits, vegetables, and edible flowers? At Foodscape, we can help you design the perfect garden oasis that satisfies your soul and belly.
Let’s plan your winter and spring garden now so you can enjoy the “fruits” of your labour as soon as possible. Book a free edible garden consultation with us today.