How to Winterize Garden Beds | Modern Gardener

(upbeat music) – [Mark] I’m here with Jessica Camper at the University of Utah Edible Gardens. She’s the coordinator here. Jessica, could you tell
us a little bit about getting your garden beds ready for winter? – Absolutely, so we are
standing in the hoop house of our garden, which is nice and balmy. Doesn’t quite look like winter, but outside it’s getting a little colder. It’s time to get your
beds ready for winter. Two main goals when you’re
preparing your beds for winter. You want to protect your
soil from all the elements. You don’t want all the soil
to erode away over the winter. And you can also replenish
your soil with nutrients that some of your summer
crops may have used over the summer. So say you had a bed that was
planted with summer squash, you wanna remove all those
old plants, tomatoes, beans, et cetera, and then
all you weeds as well. You wanna make sure it’s weed free so that you are basically ready to reseed. You can till your soil
if you know that you’re really low on organic matter in your bed. And also if you have a pest problem, tilling your soil can expose eggs of pests and they’ll die over the winter. And then you also can add
compost into your soil and then as you till it,
it’ll mix the compost in. If you aren’t seeing any
problems with your plants over the summer, if they’re growing fine, you don’t have any pest problems, you can certainly skip your tilling. It kinda just aerates the soil
if you have really clay soils and if they’re compact you can till. I personally prefer to till by hand because you can get a little deeper and tilling with a motorized vehicle, you’re using fossil fuels
which I prefer not to do. And also the tines only reach
about six inches into the soil so anything below that
can become really compact if you’re using that season after season. – So if you’re digging
it out with a shovel, you wanna get at least
six inches or go deeper. And what is that tilling and the digging, what’s that gonna do with the
weeds that are already there? – Sure so, kind of negative
and positive for tilling. A lot of weed seeds can come in by wind and land on your garden. By flipping your soil, it could be giving them
the perfect opportunity to germinate and spread. I think in the long run,
tilling your soil does help, if you are facing those
compaction problems and if you’re seeing that your
plants are having a hard time there’s not enough organic matter. If you notice that your
tomatoes are doing really poorly or something just isn’t as vigorous, you can test your soil. This is an at-home kit
that you can just buy from any home maintenance
store or garden center. Based on the colors, what
you may be low or high in in your soil. Another option, which we
usually utilize at the Gardens, is we collect a small sample
of soil and we send it off to Utah State University
to their soil lab. And they’ll tell you
exactly what’s in your soil, the composition of your
soil, and how you can fix it. If it it really high in
salt, or really high PH, they’ll tell exactly what
to do to fix your soil so you can be successful in the future. – That’s great and do they
charge for that service or how do they normally work that? – They do charge for the
service but it’s pretty cheap. – Okay. When it comes to tilling the soil, is it best to do it in the fall, after you’ve pulled out all the plants or in the spring, before you plant? – You can do it in the spring or fall, it doesn’t really matter. The benefits to do it in the fall is that you can seed
earlier in the spring. Usually people are really
excited to start growing things in the spring so it just kind
of takes that chore away. Also by tilling in the fall, you can incorporate your compost and that gives it a little extra time to mesh in with the soil you
already have in your bed, kind of creating a better area for your plants to grow
then in the spring. – Tell me about the
seeds that we have here. How are you gonna use these and what do you expect out of them? – Sure, so in some of our beds
we are going to cover crop. And this is a type of cover crop. This is hairy vetch, which is a legume. And legumes are a little bit
slow to germinate in our beds. You always wanna put your seed in at least four weeks before frost, giving them enough time to establish, that way they won’t die over the winter. If you put them in a little too late, they’ll be a little too small and tender and can die in the frost. You might just want to
broadcast the seed on top and kind of rake them in and
tamp the soil down a little bit to help with soil-seed contact, giving them a better
chance of germinating. But if you have a really small garden, you can also create ferals just
like you would squash seeds or anything else that you’re
seeding in your garden. Some common cover crops
that you can use in Utah. Hairy vetch, which are
these seeds right here, and here’s an example of hairy
vetch when it’s flowering. We also have Austrian winter pea. And then here is winter rye. And people also use winter wheat. Benefits to using the rye or wheat is that they germinate
really fast and establish. It’s great for soil erosion. – So that’s what you’re
gonna do with these, is you want it to kind of
like grow over your garden bed and just keep everything
in place through the winter so the water doesn’t wash
it away when the snow melts. – Exactly, yep! And they’ll live over the winter, come spring you’ll let
them continue growing until you’re ready to seed your plants. And you especially wanna
pull out any cover crops that are going to seed because if they go to seed
and spreading your garden, it could become a weed. – So it’s basically
gonna sit mainly dormant throughout the winter and then
in spring it’s gonna come up. So at that point, when do you
pull these out of the ground? – You can pull them out of the ground and add them to your compost. Or you can work them
straight into your soil and they can decompose there. We’ll probably pull them all out and add them to the compost then. And at about this point,
I would pull them out because they are probably
getting pollinated and getting ready to seed. – Okay, the flowers and all that yeah? – Right, yep. – What are some other
ways to prepare your beds if you’re not going to cover crop? – So if you decide not to do cover crop, you can just mulch your beds. Remove all the summer
crops, like I said before, and then you can pile on
either shredded leaves or straw, some kind of
vegetation to protect your soil from all the elements over the winter so that your soil doesn’t erode. The reason why you’d wanna use cover crops is if you feel like your plants aren’t
performing quite as well it can replenish the
soil with their nitrogen. – Well Jessica, thank you so much for having us back here again. We appreciate your
expertise every single time. We hope that we have you back on again. – Thank you, thank you for coming.


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