Preparing Raised Garden Beds for Winter

Preparing Raised Garden Beds for Winter

It’s that time of the year when the growing and harvesting of our vegetables is complete and there is a vacuum of sorts in our raised bed gardening schedule. We are rather redundant with regards to work in our gardens at this juncture, but believe it or not, there is still a great deal of work that we can occupy ourselves with. It’s a bit like the tourist season in some locations, they shut up shop, get out of town and come back in the new year, depending of course, in where they live. Next year’s gardening begins right now as we can plan and prepare with gusto, in terms of getting the ground and especially the soil ready for the year ahead. After a vigorous growing season, the soil is now somewhat depleted and the nourishment and nutrients that were present, need immediate replenishing. If we do not look after the raised bed soil on a regular basis, we are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to expecting good returns from our raised beds.

However, preparing raised garden beds for winter is not an enormous task, but rather an element of maintenance that must be carried out on an annual basis. There are some gardeners out there, who continuously use their raised beds to grow certain vegetables all year round, but I have seen for myself that this is a mistake. The soil needs a rest and time to recover from the previous harvest and around the fall and throughout the winter months is the optimum time for this task. Some growers leave certain vegetables in the ground beyond harvest as they claim that the longer they remain growing, ultimately the sweeter and tastier they will be. If we do these maintenance jobs regularly, we will not need to replace the soil in our raised beds every year, but instead maybe only every three to four years would be sufficient.

 

Garden mulching

 

Add compost to our raised bed soil;

 

This is one of the fundamental requirements for sustaining the quality of our raised beds and this is a task that’s relatively easy to accomplish. If we have our own composting quarters, some of this material may now be ready for the raised beds, provided it is a year or so in the making. Add a wheelbarrow or so of compost to a raised bed measuring 4′ x 8′. Fork in vigorously and mix this material with the existing soil. Do not worry too much if the compost is not properly broken down as it will sit in the soil for at least 4-5 months and will decompose in due course over that period. If we don’t have our own compost, our local garden centre or nursery will have tons of it for sale, so it’s rather easily available and also relatively inexpensive.

 

Replace the existing soil;

 

Yes, you heard me correctly, this is another method that some gardeners who use raised garden beds will use from time to time. There is an element of effort and work involved in order to carry out this exercise, but with this system we are giving our garden a complete makeover, it’s similar to changing the engine in our cars. We are starting afresh and have completely renovated the raised bed garden in total. It’s a really good exercise from a number of points and it is very practical and its also self-explanatory. We have disposed of the old exhausted soil and replaced it with new earth which would be devoid of any blight or plant disease and full of nutrients.  Simply pull up our wheelbarrow parallel to the raised beds empty the soil down to a depth of 6-8″ and infill with the new topsoil. Add a little compost for good measure, leave to overwinter and we are done.

 

Digging in the garden

 

Plant a cover crop;

 

This is an exercise that professional and particular gardeners will do occasionally and for good reason also. As soon as we have removed all traces of our previous years growth, till the soil a little and spread our winter crop seeds over the raised bed. These will germinate in no time and will cover the raised bed area completely. The idea is that the roots of this crop will reach down and aerate the soil, it will also supress any weeds and pull any nitrogen elements that exist in the soil up towards the surface, thus fertilising and enriching the soil for next year’s vegetable growth. In the spring, a few weeks before planting, we simply rotavate these cover plants into the soil and that adds to the quality and care of our raised beds. Some of these cover crops would be Buckwheat, Alfalfa, Clover and Legume.

 

Mulching a garden

 

Lasagna gardening;

 

We all know what a lasagna meal looks like and to be brief, its layers of cheese, mince meat, potatoes and perhaps a layer of vegetables, each nicely organised to give a tasty delicious meal. Lasagna gardening is the same principal really that we would adopt in our raised bed gardens. We would have layers in our soil basically, made of all different materials. Topsoil, earth or dirt would be the main ingredient in this structure, then add a layer of compost, a layer of farmyard manure, maybe layers of newspapers or cardboard and finally a layer of mulched leaves. This is then left to nature to take its course and when the spring comes around, we have a fully fertilized and organically enriched garden in which to work with.

 

To conclude;

 

All of the above work is carried out in the fall, ie, September to October and our raised beds are essentially dormant over the winter months. This is when the magic happens in the soil and it’s something that we never see happen. The microcosms that exist in the soil breakdown all the added material and renders it into enriched nutrient garden soil, ideal for next years planting. The worms, lest we forget also have a large part in this process and contribute largely to the quality of our gardens. That is why the majority of growers do not use fertilizer to enrich their soil because it drives the worms further down into the ground and as a result we lose out bigtime on their soil enriching benefits.

Once again, I trust that this information is useful and informative, please do drop by every now and again as we are constantly updating our website and adding new material on a regular basis.  If you would like to contact us, please use the comments section down below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

12 thoughts on “Preparing Raised Garden Beds for Winter

  1. I am just curious about preparing a raised garden bed for winter. Since I live in a warmer climate, Florida, do I still need to do this? I am pretty sure that I can find something to plant for the coming “winter” months. Maybe I need to add some nutrients to the soil and then plant my winter plants? I am at a loss as I am fairly new to Florida and this will be my first winter here 🙂

    1. Hi there

      Many thanks for stopping by and offering thoughtful comments, its very much appreciated and welcomed. I guess in your climate and location, you are pretty lucky in that you can grow vegetables all year round and never have to worry about frost or snow damaging your gardens.

      In that case it would be advisable to add some composted nutrients in order to sustain an all year round growing season. Your local gardnen centre or nursery will advise you on what is required for this task and also it will largely depend on what you are deciding to grow.

      Thanks again for stopping by, happy gardening

      Cheers  Phil Browne

  2. Hi Phil
    Very interesting your site for me mainly because I am also a farmer. As you explain very well it has to be prepared on the soil in the winter. Surely we do it correctly and so will the harvest we will get. Applying compost and if possible mixing it with other materials such as straw or cow or horse dung will be extraordinary. Congratulations on all your work. Regards!

    1. Hi there

      Many thanks for stopping by and offering thoughtful interesting comments on this post. I agree with you 100%, its definitely so important to add some nutrients on an annual basis, and as you said yourself, it will guarantee us a rewarding and bountiful harvest the following year.

      Farmyard manure is probably the best enrichment that we could add to a garden, as its organic and very beneficial to the soil.

      Thanks again for stopping by, happy gardening

      Cheers Phil Browne

  3. This post is incredibly useful as we are heading into the winter months. I live in NC and have been container gardening on my porch for the summer and into the fall. Although I don’t have raised beds per say, do you suggest that the same methods be applied to the containers? Since the soil volume in containers is not as large as in raised beds, I was thinking that a soil replacement should be done to prep it for winter. Do you suggest mixing the the old soil with compost in a wheel barrel and adding worms to refortify the nutrient content? Thanks so much for your article!

    1. Hi there Ciara,

      Many thanks for stopping by and reading this post, its very welcomed. I agree with your assessment in that containers and growing pots need replenishing on an annual basis and you are pretty much on the money when you say that you would replace some of the old soil.

      Mixing some of the existing with some fresh compost in a wheelbarrow is exactly the method to use and then top up your containers with the new material. That way ensures some extra nutrients and nourishment have been added to your containers and it will serve you well for the coming growing season, or if you are considering growing some winter plants like salads and certain types of cabbages or brassicas.

      Thanks again for stopping by, happy gardening,

      Cheers        PB

  4. Hello Phil,

    This post is really useful and informative. You are describing the work in the garden in such a way that I’m looking forward to go out to the garden and do the work at this very moment.

    It’s an excellent tip to prepare our raised beds for the coming spring already now. Thank you so much for telling about adding compost to the soil in the autumn. Then the the raised bed is ready for planting with furtive soil as soon as the gardening season begins.

    Best Regards,
    Pernilla

    1. Hi there Pernilla,
      Many thanks for stopping by and offering positive thoughtful comments, it’s greatly appreciated. I am glad that you liked this post and that the information was useful and informative for your gardening tasks throughout the fall and into the winter.
      I agree with you 100%, now is the time to get our gardens and raised beds ready for next spring and by doing this task now, we are giving the soil and the garden a great chance to recover from this years growth.
      Its an important step and if we do what’s necessary at this time of the year, our gardening exercises will be a lot easier when the time for planting and sowing comes around next spring.
      Thanks again as ever, happy gardening
      Best wishes PB

      1. Hello again Phil!

        Thank you so much for motivating me to prepare the garden for the next season.

        Actually, me and my husband spent the Saturday out in the garden preparing our raised beds. We mixed the existing soil with compost and grass (from cutting the lawn). Then I planted strawberry plants in the raised bed. It looks really neat and clean. This summer we kept the strawberry plants directly in the ground and we had a big fight against the weeds! We hope there will be less weed, keeping the plants in the raised bed. If you have any tips about how to keep the weeds away, I would be very grateful.

        All the best,
        Pernilla

        1. Hi there again Pernilla,
          Many thanks for dropping by, reading this post and offering thoughtful positive comments. I agree with you that doing the work at this time of the year will save time and money in the springtime and wil make our gardening that much easierwhen planting and sowing comes around.
          As ever the weeds are an issue that never goes away and they are a constant source of grief and stress for many gardeners and vegetable growers. There are several methods that may be of assistance to you in your gardening maintenance tasks.
          You could use leaf mulching as you have just mentioned, you could also use bark mulch or finally there is weed-barrier plastic membrane sheeting that is available at all garden centres or hardware outlets.
          I wrote a post some time ago on this topic which you can read here
          Hoping that this information is useful and informative, happy gardening.

          Cheers Phil Browne

  5. Phil,
    Thanks a lot for your tips about how to keep the weeds away. Really appreciate your answer.

    I think I will try the plastic membrane sheeting around the strawberry plants and the bark mulch would do good in the flower beds.

    Cheers
    Pernilla

    1. Hi there again
      There are a few solutions to the weed problem and I have covered some of the most practical methods, so hopefully some of those will work for you
      Cheers again and happy gardening,
      PB

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