If your little land of crops has become all snow, ice & nothing nice (like everyone else), then these winter maintenance tips for your garden will come in handy. Remember that plants don’t grow much now, even if they do, thanks to the colder temperatures & shorter days. Let’s help you tuck your garden in for its annual nap, so it can wake up healthily & flourish next year.
5 Winter Maintenance Tips for Your Survival Garden
Clear Out Bush
You have to clear out debris & weeds before the soil becomes too hard & crusty, as these are nesting spots for insects in winter. To do the job, you can use your hands or rent a gas- or electric-powered tiller. By tilling the soil, you eliminate weeds that grow deep in the soil and reduce the count of insects making your garden their winter getaway apartment, like the Japanese beetles.
It is important to do this because aphids, beetles, grubs & similar insects lay eggs on leaves & stalks, AND fungi & fungal pathogens grow on rotting veggies. They sink deep into the soil, survive the winter & resurface in spring to damage tender plants. What’s more, these spores will attract more destructive insects. While dead, rotten vegetation can make organic fertilizer, it’s hard to know if the plants are free from diseases & pests, so it is in your best interest to completely take them out.
If weeds don’t appear after you till the soil, cover the soil with a cardboard layer or black plastic and leave it until spring. Most weeds die under plastic, but you should know they never really go away. They can germinate between summer and fall and grow in spring. As a proactive measure, you may apply pre-emergent herbicides to your garden bed.
Know Your Herb Garden Zone
Some herbs may perform well in cold weather, while others may do very poorly as soon as the temp drops below 32°. If you do not want to lose any of these valuable herbs, all you have to do is cut them & store them in a glass of water. They’ll start growing with time, and then you can transplant them or use some of the stems in cooking.
- Sage is a perennial plant & will regrow in spring very fine.
- Parsley grows biennially & can do well under exposure to light frost USDA Plant Hardiness Zones & below. It performs poorly when transplanted.
- Rosemary is tender and an evergreen that can’t survive the outside in zones 5 & colder.
- Thyme appears like the opposite of rosemary, given that it stops all growth in fall before resuming in spring.
- Basil can’t survive the winter on its own. Bring this tender perennial inside for the winter.
- Oregano & chives are hardy perennials with the ability to survive cold temps.
- Avoid the temptation of fertilizing herbs after August because this will cause the growth of new ones that won’t survive the winter. Plant water herbs from late summer to fall. Once plants are 4–6” tall, which is after their first freeze, prune them.
Note that winter can be funnily unpredictable. So, if necessary, bring your basil & parsley indoors as well.
Usually, berry shrubs are quite hardy. Fall pruning is, nonetheless, advisable.
Blackberries: plant these berries in the fall. When planting, make your mounds around the stalks so stems can’t be pulled from the ground by hard frosts. Disassociate trailing blackberries from canes and heavy mulch from the cover. Straight blackberries typically do better in the cold than the trailing ones. Whatever though, the canes must be protected from the stinging winter wind.
Raspberries: these summer-bearers have to be pruned in fall. Cut them down to the ground after their fruits ripen & drop. They will regrow in spring. It is best to grow primocane raspberries in winter or just cold conditions because they’ll bear fruits in summer on old canes & then bear again in autumn on new canes. Don’t forget to cut them down in fall.
Strawberries: strawberries can manage light frost but hardly deep freeze. Timing is crucial. After the fall of the first heavy frost, they have to be shielded with a straw layer of 3–5”. Doing this despite that the plants are having their active growth will smother them. Use pine needles, straw & well-shredded leaves to keep your strawberries warm throughout winter.
Pay Some Attention to Perennials
Normally, perennials regrow automatically yearly, but this doesn’t mean a little tender loving care every fall would hurt. In fact, this will give you a head start when spring comes. During fall, water perennials & flowering shrubs and reduce their height to 3 inches when the ground freezes. Cover with a layer of thick leaves, straw, or mulch. If you intend to plant new flowers cum spring, cover the soil with black plastic, or use pre-germinate herbicides to prevent weeds’ growth (as advised above).
Other mulches to use for perennials are hemlock, pine post peelings & dried grass clippings, all of which protect the roots from freeze-thaw destruction through insulation. Before mulching, however, you have to wait till the ground is starting to freeze. Water your perennials during dry spells in winter & when there is no snow.
Perennials that need winter mulching include lavender, English Daisy, pincushion flower, ajuga, chrysanthemum, wallflower, bergenia, & St. John’s wort.
Perennials that do not need mulching to survive winter include daylily, purple coneflower, aster, iris, black-eyed Susan, poppy & creeping phlox.
Move Plants Outdoors?
Regardless of how cold-hardy some herbs are, it may be better to move them indoors when winter arrives. In fact, I think that all plants should be moved in during winter if there’s enough space. If there are constraints, however, observe the herbs to know which to move in.
Leave crops with obvious signs of infection. Although neem oil can be treated off, it is best to just dispose of plants infested with it. Be observant after moving plants inside. The sudden change in humidity & light can cause plants to go into shock that will cause their leaves to shrivel & drop.
Concluding The Winter Maintenance Tips for Your Survival Garden
There’s always time to plan for spring, even if you haven’t started already. Prep up your taste buds for delicious & healthy herbs by keeping to these winter maintenance tips for your survival garden. Having to look forward to the tasty fruits, veggies & flowers is just great, don’t you think so?