Preparing your gardens for winter will bring benefits next spring.
Remove any plants that have quit producing. Any with tomato blight or other diseases, throw away or burn them, don’t put them in your compost bin. Lettuce, kale, spinach, chard, carrots, and radishes can often be left producing well after the first light frost.
If you plan to put covers on your raised beds to extend the growing period or continue to grow cold hardy vegetables through the winter, you can put up your PVC hoops and secure the row covers on top but leave the sides open for ventilation as long as it is warm.
Securing the Covers
With the first frost prediction, let the sides of your covers, or apply plastic and secure it. Watch the weather, in case you have some freeze and thaw periods before winter sets in really hard. You don’t want to cook your plants with too much heat. This is more likely with plastic covers than fabric row covers.
Pull out your annual plants as they begin to wither or whenever you decide to prepare your beds for winter. With some you can say, “that’s enough, I’m tired of watering you!” These plants can go in the compost pile if there are no signs of disease.
Fall is the perfect time to divide perennials or to plant new ones in your garden. If planted now or for the next few weeks, they will be able to put down good roots for next year. And, nurseries and garden centers have great sales now. Even if a plant looks like it’s on its last legs, it can be nurtured back to health with good soil and water. Divide any perennials that are overgrown. Dig them up, cut them apart and replant.
For the garden beds that will be fallow all winter, walkways, and perennial beds, cover with about one inch of shredded leaves and put a nice layer of clean straw over that. This will return nourishment to the soil and keep weed seeds from getting ahold in your beds and walks. You can also plant a cover crop to be turned over in the spring.