How to Close Down Your Garden for Winter

1:00 PM

My sad little plot before the annual "closing ceremonies" began
We've been blessed this year in Southwestern Ontario to be snow-free by mid-November, but don't go sprinkling another round of carrot seeds just yet. It has already begun frosting and that means it's time to close down your garden for the winter. Although somewhat emotionally challenging, the act itself is easy to accomplish. All you need are a shovel, some mulch and this guide.

1. Harvest whatever's left.

  • Broccoli can be pulled all the way up until it flowers. Once it does, it's only good for seed.
    Gathering tomatoes
    Pole beans all dried and ready to be saved
  • Eggplant can be pulled when it's about 6 inches long, and shiny.
  • Garlic should have at least the lower half of leaves brown.
  • Squash should be the right colour depending on their variety and the vine should begin withering.
  • Cabbage are ready when they feel hard.
  • And tomatoes: well it really doesn't matter! At this point, pull them green if you need to. When frost is threatening it's best to get your tomatoes inside to ripen in a sunny window.
Letting tomatoes rot in a ditch in hopes
of having some self-seed next year
2. Pull remaining plants and layer in an inch of compost. Of course you can leave your perennials (all I leave are berries and anything I'm going to overwinter - this year, carrots).

3. Protect perennials or plants to overwinter with mulch cover. Raked leaves make nice mulch.

4. Plant bulbs. For me this will be garlic and paper whites (if I can find them buried under Christmas decorations in the cold storage).

5. Plant green manure. Click here to learn how.

6. Make notes of what worked and what didn't so that you can do better next year. A garden journal is an incredible resource.
Allowing sunflowers to dry out

7. Preserve your harvest.
  • "Sun-dry" tomatoes in your oven on low heat - or make a batch of salsa or tomato sauce
  • Leave winter squash and root vegetables in a cold storage for months
  • Dry beans for use in soups (or to use as seed next season)
  • Make fruit into jam
  • Make vegetables into pickles

Spring and summer are not the only important times for your veggie crop. What you do before winter hits can have just as much impact as what you do after it. Closing your garden down the proper way makes spring planting that much more glorious. Take the time - you won't regret it.

My garden assistant - Oliver, age 3 months

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  1. Are you just pulling your garlic now? Mines been out since early July. I figured it would be rotted through by now. Lucky you. :)


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