Vegetable patches can be a hive of activity at the height of the season, producing a seemingly never-ending supply of fresh produce. As summer starts to fade, however, it’s obvious to consider what to do with your vegetable patch over winter?
Fortunately there are all sorts of possibilities open to you. Let’s take a look at some of the very best options available to you over winter…
Leave to Go Fallow
Possibly the easiest option is simply to ignore your vegetable patch over winter. Let the soil recover from all the nutrients that your vegetable plants have absorbed and simply wait to replant the following spring.
Of course there are issues with this idea. Firstly, weeds are likely to grow up, making for a tough weekend the following spring getting things back into shape. Additionally for many people this just seems like a waste, when there are so many more productive things you could do with your vegetable patch over winter.
Dig and Fertilize
Rather than leaving your vegetable patch alone entirely, one alternative is to dig yourself some channels in the earth and spend winter adding your compostable vegetable scraps. Depending on where you live, winter can last a good number of months, during which time you’ll be slowly building up the soil for the following season.
When spring rolls around simply cover over the channels and plant as you normally would, safe in the knowledge that those scraps will continue to slowly rot throughout the season, releasing beneficial nutrients into the soil to help your vegetables grow big and strong.
Cover and Wait
If you’d rather avoid having too much weeding to do on your vegetable patch in spring then another popular option is to cover the patch entirely. This serves three distinct benefits. Firstly, it prevents weeds from growing up, meaning that in spring your soil will be fresh and pretty much ready to plant into.
A second benefit of covering your vegetable patch is that it keeps the rain off. In doing so, you reduce the chances of beneficial nutrients being washed away. Indeed, some people will opt to add a layer of fertilizer as per the manufacturer’s instructions *before* covering the patch entirely. By spring you’ll have a wonderfully rich and weed-free growing area ready for planting.
One final benefit is that covering your vegetable patch can also help to warm up the earth gently in spring, allowing your new seedlings to get a quicker start in life.
Every gardener who employs this method has their preferred method of covering the earth. Some people are happy to use old cardboard, such as by cutting up unwanted cardboard boxes, then weighing this down against winter storms with rocks.
Others prefer to use oil carpet.
My personal preference, however, is for weed-control matting. This can be carefully fixed into place using pegs that will withstand even the strongest of winter winds. Furthermore, the following spring you can always consider leaving the matting in place, gently using a craft knife to cut holes or slits through which to plant your vegetable seedlings.
In this way the weed control matting can stay in place all through the season, minimizing your weeding while also retaining water in the earth and keeping the soil pleasantly warm.
Sow Green Manure
There are a range of different green manures that can be bought in bulk. Popular examples include red clover and mustard. Simply broadcast the seed over your vegetable patch as the season draws to a close. It will germinate rapidly, making it harder for weeds to get a hold in your plot.
Many green manures like clover are also excellent at capturing nitrogen from the soil so can help to retain or even replenish goodness in the soil.
In spring, simply dig over the plot, turning the green manure plants into the earth where they will rot down, releasing their beneficial nutrients.
Grow Hardy Winter Vegetables
Lastly don’t assume that just because the sunny summer days are gone you can’t grow any vegetables at all. There are a surprising number of vegetables that will survive – sometimes even thrive – over winter.
Some popular examples include winter-hardy lettuces, cabbages, parsnips, kale and a variety of other leafy greens. You might be surprised by just what is possible when you choose the right vegetable varieties.