While your garden may seem to go dormant as the cold air grips the soil, bugs are busy at work. Whether they’re feeding on your veggies or spreading disease, winter pests can damage your hard-earned fruits and vegetables. Taking preventive measures this fall can make your garden much easier to manage in the future. Take these 5 simple steps to prepare your garden for the winter.
1. Get Rid Of Weeds
Getting rid of weeds in the winter is an essential step for preparing your garden for pest control in spring. Weeds that germinate in late fall and survive the winter rob your soil of vital nutrients, so killing them now will help prevent them from growing in early spring. However, many weed species are biennials that grow leaves the first year, then overwinter to flower and drop seeds the next. Use a preemergence herbicide, such as Tenacity, to kill these weeds before they become fully mature and can drop their seeds in the spring. This will protect your lawn from weeds in the fall and early spring, saving you time and money in the long run.
Mulching is a great way to protect your garden from weeds, erosion, and disease. It also helps retain soil moisture and regulate soil temperature for healthier plants. The type of mulch you choose depends on your needs. Organic mulches, such as well-rotted manure, compost, and wood chips, are rich in nutrients and improve the health of your soil as they decompose. But beware that too much mulch (a layer of four inches or more) can inhibit oxygen from reaching plant roots, which can cause disease and death. Moreover, mulches piled up against the stems of woody plants like shrubs and trees can encourage decay. If you’re worried about this, pull mulch back six to 12 inches from the trunks of these plants.
3. Apply A Winter Wash
Winter is the perfect time to apply a winter wash to your fruit trees, bushes, and ornamentals. It can be sprayed onto buds, branches, and crevices in the bark to target overwintering pests and fungal spores. This is a great way to keep your garden free of pests during the dormant season and minimize any problems that may develop in spring. It is a blend of natural oils which eradicates insects and bugs, protecting your trees and bushes from damage later in the year. Apply a winter wash to your fruit trees and bushes between November and February when buds are beginning to break and before pests are ready to start their attack on new growth. This is a very simple, cost effective and beneficial way to protect your trees and bushes for the growing season.
4. Cover Crops
Cover crops, or green manures, are an important step in getting your garden ready for the winter. They help prevent weeds, soil erosion, and provide a good seedbed for the spring planting season. Some cover crops are legumes, which use special bacteria to “fix” nitrogen from the air into a form that plants can take up and use. Others are non-legume, which absorb and retain nitrogen. Choose a cover crop that will best suit your particular needs. For example, if you grow primarily tomatoes or peppers, try a legume that will fix nitrogen.
5. Prevent Disease
Many garden pests slow down or hibernate in winter. However, there are still some that are active. To help prevent disease, crop rotation is a good idea. This means moving related crops from one area to another within your garden from season to season. Alternatively, interplanting different vegetable crops and herbs may also work well. This can confuse pest insects by making it harder for them to find their host plant.
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