After living in Minnesota for many years, I came to think of "winterizing the garden" as "oh shit, it's November and my garden just got covered in snow. Well, guess I'll deal with that in June when the snow melts." Here in the Pacific Northwest, winterizing is actually a thing. You can simultaneously replenish the soil and continue to grow plants YEAR. ROUND. *mind blown* Recently, I began the process of winterizing by doing the following:
STEP 1: Spread a fresh layer of compost on the garden plot.
STEP 2: Get super busy for two weeks and never check on it.
STEP 3: Win Gardener of the Year award.
When I finally did get around to the garden, it had pretty much exploded. Plants that had been somewhat stagnant were suddenly growing faster than my waistline in the running off-season (heyooo!). The combination of cooler weather, plentiful rain, and compost was just what they needed. Unfortunately, it was just what the weeds and grasses also needed, and they gobbled it up and started taking over. To make matters worse, many of our summer plants were clearly done-zo and needed to be put out of their misery.
Let me clarify what is going on in this JUNGLE:
I had some serious work to do. So began the process of winterizing.
STEP 1: CLEAR OUT THE SUMMER PLANTS.
I have some fall and winter crops planted, but needed to pull up all of the plants that were left from the summer crop: tomatoes, peppers, beans, shiso, and some other miscellaneous little dudes. I harvested what I could of the green tomatoes, then yanked out the plants and lovingly put them into the city compost. The circle of life, friends.
STEP 2: WEED, MAN.
Now to take care of those pesky weeds. It's an organic garden, so that means hand-pulling the grasses and tilling under the shotweed that had started to take over. Luckily it's a very small garden plot and this took no time at all. Ok, maybe a little bit of time. Ok, I may have thrown out my shoulder. DON'T JUDGE ME.
STEP 3: PROTECT IRRIGATION SYSTEM.
The irrigation system has been shut off for a few weeks now, so no need to have those little hoses in there, covered by compost and leaves and waiting for me to send a shovel through them in the spring time when I forget they are there.
STEP 4: COVER EXPOSED SOIL WITH DRY LEAVES.
Oh, this sounds sooooooo simple to those of you who have a little thing called "a yard." Some of us city-dwellers are not so lucky, so I had to do something confusing. I had to steal leaves. Picture this: me, in a public plaza, still wearing my work clothes (had to hurry over to the garden before sunset), picking up wet leaves with my bare hands, stuffing them into a plastic bag, and shoving the bags into my bike saddles. It's not super surprising that no one stopped me, because I looked like a crazy person.
Anyway, leaves are great because they help protect the soil and add nutrients as they decompose over the winter. Another option is to plant a cover crop that will be tilled into the soil in spring (clover is great for this, but there are plenty of other options).
STEP 5: FEEL DEEP SENSE OF SATISFACTION.
And a deep sense of smugness because your neighbors' plots look like CRAP and yours looks AWESOME and is super prepared for the winter and the coming spring. WOO HOO!
And there we have it! A little winterized garden. For the next few months, I can stop up there occasionally to harvest some winter crops and tend to it as needed, but nothing like the intensive hot, dry, summer season when I was up there almost daily. Hopefully these crops will do well and I can share some clever recipes in the upcoming weeks.