Prepping Your Garden for Winter – Cover Cropping and Sheet Mulching
Winter is coming … and it’s a great time to start prep for the coming year, whether that means planting crops that improve the soil, or readying the garden for a fallow season, here are some easy ways to get your garden ready. Cover crops are a group of plants that can be planted between seasons to improve soil for the next growing season.
There are two groups of cover crops, legumes and non-legumes: legumes add nitrogen and non-leguminous plants help to suppress weeds. Planting combinations of cover crops is a good way to maximize results!
Sheet mulching, or “lasagna composting,” is a great way to prep your garden for inactivity. It suppresses weeds and, like cover cropping, improves soil for the following season by adding nutrients and helping to retain moisture in the soil. Here are step-by-step instructions for sheet-mulching:
- First, mow or cut existing vegetation. Make sure to remove woody plant material which won’t break down quickly.
- Add a thick layer of compost or manure - 50 lbs for 100 square feet. If your garden needs it, you can also add rock phosphate, potash, magnesium, and sulfur at this time.
- Water the compost layer.
- Lay down newspaper (4-6 sheets thick) or cardboard. Be sure to entirely cover the ground and overlap the cardboard or newspaper. Make sure to not leave any gaps, because weeds will grow in them.
- Spread another compost layer of compost, grass clippings, or leaves over the newspaper or cardboard. Make sure this layer doesn’t have any weeds or weed seeds in it.
- Spread straw, sawdust, leaves, twigs, wood chips or bark over the top.
- In the Spring, plant new crops in your healthy new soil!
Looking to extend your growing season in Southern Ontario? If you have hoop houses or cold frames try seeding the following:
- October - bush beans, cabbage seedlings, cauliflower seedlings, peas, collards, kohlrabi seedlings, lettuce, onion, parsnip, garlic, radish, rhubarb root, spinach, swiss chard, turnips, broccoli, mustard, shallots.
- November - bush beans, garlic, lettuce, onion, peas, radish, shallots.
- December - bush beans, garlic, lettuce, radish shallot
- Cover crops - Nitrogen-fixing legumes: bush beans, bell beans, clovers, vetch, field peas, alfalfa
- Cover crops - Non-legumes: rye, oats, wheat, buckwheat.
For more detailed info on sheet-mulching, check out this article from ACORN Organic