We’re expecting the first low freeze tonight. 20 something, brrrrrr! So, we have to get ready. We’ve had a lot of leaf fall, which can be bunched up around potted plants outside for added insulation, then covered with plastic.
Here’s my list:
0. Gather organic matter for mulching such as autumn leaves, pine straw, or straw. I put mine in large construction grade heavy duty bags from Home Depot – Hefty brand. They can be re-used over and over as many as 20 times before they start to be too full of holes or shredded to be useful as a bag. Then I use them to line bins or other uses.
1. Check moisture content of all beds to be secured for freeze, water if necessary.
2. Drain all the outside water lines and bring in the watering wands (they tend to break if left out in the cold), wind the hoses onto their carts.
3. Put extra mulching around the bases of all the annual plants, and any recently planted perennials which didn’t get extra mulch already.
4. Bring all the unplanted trees, bushes, and other perennial plants into a circle and surround them with bagged up autumn leaves – cover with clear plastic and secure.
5. Dig in any kitchen waste in un-planted beds and cover with soil – they will be planted again once we have a warm day. Then cover open areas with mulch.
6. Harvest any greens needed in the next several days from annual beds.
7. Harvest hard perennial herbs such as thyme, bay leaf, lemon verbena, Echinacea roots, etc. for later processing.
8. Lay tomato cages on their sides, alternating direction down the length of the beds, carefully placing them around existing plants.
Click pictures to enlarge.
9. Bring in any of the plants which are tender perennials or warm weather plants, and place by the window where they can get some sun, including seedlings not yet planted.
10. Rake un-planted beds smooth and mulch with autumn leaves so the mulch can be pushed aside for later plantings, but are protected from freeze meanwhile.
11. Bring out clear or white plastic sheeting and roll it out for sizing to be placed on beds, organize for best use.
12 Carefully lay sheeting over tomato cages, secure with one-cell cinder blocks around the perimeter, and use bricks or rocks over path ways here and there if sheeting covers them, to avoid wind catching the sheets and blowing them off.
13. Neaten the area, bringing in plastic planters and stacking them, raking up spilled soils or leaves around staging areas, securing any un-used plastic sheeting, etc.
15. We don’t have a riding mower or tractor, or other outdoor machinery here at Hillside Gardens, but if you do, empty the gas tanks, including warm only weather stuff like chain saws or chippers, clean out the tanks, and if you have an equipment shed, bring in the machinery, or if not, cover with heavy tarp.
Watch the weather in your area. If the temperature gets into the 30s’ even if it doesn’t say it will freeze, prepare your garden for a long freeze anyway. Water pipes burst, watering wands are destroyed, tender perennials freeze and die, annuals which aren’t sufficiently cold hardy will be lost, and losses occur. But if sufficient preparation is done while it’s still above freezing, the garden can keep producing, and your equipment will be secure. If you have mowers you can run them over leaves and catch them for great mulch.
I purchase rolls of white 3.3 mil plastic sheeting from Home Depot for around $20. It’s a big sheet which I usually cut up into wide strips for rows. They also have clear sheeting in smaller rolls for about $13 which works well too, 3.5 mil. This sheeting lasts several seasons.
When the weather warms up between cold spells, if the temperature goes above about 65 F, I roll the sheeting back because it holds onto heat and cold weather annuals don’t like it too hot.
Who says you can’t grow all year long. You don’t need a green house, just some ingenuity.
Here is the winterized growing area within a deer fence, with screen panels strengthening the base of the netting. This area will grow a tremendous amount of greens and cold weather vegetables this winter – yum.