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Winterizing Your Garden for Spring Success

Sadly, the emergence of pumpkins on porches and football on Friday nights means that fall has arrived and our gardening days are limited.

With the first frost having occurred or happening in our near future, now is the time to start thinking about winterizing your garden. Proper winterizing now will lead to a quicker entry into the garden in the spring, which will lead you to have a longer growing season.


Plant matter and debris can harbor diseases and pests. To interrupt the lifecycle of the pests and diseases, removing diseased and damaged plant material from the garden is critical.

Diseased and damaged plant material should be disposed of completely by burning or discarding it in a garbage bag. Do not add diseased plant matter to a compost pile.

Some gardeners argue you should leave some healthy plant matter behind for beneficial insects to use while overwintering. The amount of plant matter you choose to leave behind is up to you.

Additionally, gently tilling the soil also can disrupt the lifecycle of garden pests. However, tilling has the potential to impact your garden negatively because you are disrupting the soil structure or the lifecycle of beneficial organisms. Weigh the pros and cons of tillage before choosing to till your garden.

Amend the Soil

Fall is a great time to conduct a soil test and adjust the pH by adding amendments if necessary. A simple soil test can be conducted by your local Extension agent or you can purchase a home test kit from your local hardware store.

Adding organic matter through the addition of compost, manure or decomposing mulch can help improve your garden’s soil. To add organic matter to your soil, cover your garden with about 2 inches of material. During the winter, it will break down. In the spring, the remaining matter can be mixed into the soil and planting can proceed from there.

Protect the Soil From the Elements

North Dakota winters are brutal! To protect the soil from erosion, adding mulch can help protect the soil from wind erosion. Simply place 3 to 4 inches of mulch over the garden soil to protect it during the winter. This is especially important if your garden has little natural snow cover.

As sad as it is to see the growing season come to an end, taking the time in the fall to prep your garden will have a meaningful impact on your spring planting.


Brooke Thiel, Ph.D.,
Project Assistant – NDSU Extension

Filed under: fca newsletter, fall, winter, garden

Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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