In early-mid November, it’s time to prepare the soil for cooler temperatures and the arrival of winter. Following these steps will help to ensure the soil remains healthy over the winter and is ready to be worked again in the spring.
Prepare the Soil
Remove any remaining weeds, dead plants, stakes or cages.
A good tool for this job is a cultivator or a hoe which can be purchased from your local home and garden store. A rototiller can also be used to turn the soil; they can be rented from your local rental equipment store.
The goal of turning the soil is to move the bottom layers of soil to the top and vice versa. This process allows the soil nutrients to be widely dispersed, and tiny air pockets to form beneath the ground level of the soil which will help to keep the soil healthy during the cooler months.
This step is not completely necessary, but a good one if you’re able to complete it. Any organic or chemical fertilizer will work, although I have experienced the best results with compost, animal manure (your local farmer will be happy to give you some, likely for free), or mushroom soil. Fertilizing the soil will help build-up a reserve of nutrients needed for the long winter.
Prepare Your Plants
Prepare your strawberry plants for cooler months; they’re very susceptible to cold temperatures and need to be protected over winter. The best tool for this job is straw which can be purchased from your local farmer or home and garden store. One bale of straw should be sufficient to cover most average-sized strawberry patches. (A bale of straw will come banded together with twine.)
Place the bale close to the strawberry patch and cut the twine (it should be in ‘sections’ making it easy to work with). Remove a section of straw and hold at the top with both hands. Working in small areas at a time, gently pull the straw section apart so you have a smaller section in each hand. Move your hands and the straw will start to fall on top of the strawberries.
The end goal is to ensure all strawberry plants are covered with straw, as well as the ground underneath the plants. Place the straw over the plants until approximately 1” of straw covers the plants. Keep the straw on the strawberries until the spring.
Start Thinking About Next Year
Just because the temperatures have turned cooler, and winter is just around the corner, doesn’t mean gardening has to stop. November through February is the perfect time to plan out your garden for the following spring. Consider the following when planning:
- Which fruits and vegetables grew the best?
- Which fruits and vegetables did your family enjoy the most?
- Which fruits and vegetables grew the worst? Figure out why – not enough sunlight, not enough or too much water, disease, bugs, etc. Just because a plant did not grow or yield the desired fruit or vegetable doesn’t mean it has to be banned from the garden … there’s always a reason.
- Do you want to expand the size of the garden in the spring, or perhaps scale back?
- Do you want to plant some vegetables in containers? Lettuce, tomatoes, and green peppers work well in containers.
- What did you enjoy the most about gardening and why?
- What did you enjoy the least and why? Can you take steps to make these results more positive in the spring?
- Do you want to start your own fruit and vegetable plants from seeds in your home?
- Do you want to purchase seeds from a seed catalog?
Were you able to use, freeze, or give-away the fruits and vegetables from the garden? If not, consider scaling back in the spring.