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Putting the garden to bed for the winter

 
pollinator
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Here in Pennsylvania, we are fast approaching the moment, and I could use a bit of advice. It seems like there are two schools of thought.

1. Clear things out so that pests and disease don’t have a spot to overwinter.

2. Leave things mostly alone so that beneficials have a spot to overwinter and material can break down.


I’ve seen both approaches extolled in traditional and permie sources. I’d love to hear people’s thoughts and systems.

Thanks!
Daniel
 
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I like to chop, drop and cover.

So for me that means I till the garden debris into the soil, add lime if I need too, and then plant winter rye as a cover crop.
 
Daniel Ackerman
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Thanks Travis!
 
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My thought is: if both are supposed to work, but one is significantly easier, I'll go with that until I'm proven otherwise. As for putting the garden to sleep, I don't do that.  I'm in zone 5/6. Plenty of things grow over winter some with cover and some without. Why waste a season? I would argue that it is the healthiest option for the soil because it means living roots.
 
Travis Johnson
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Amit Enventres wrote:My thought is: if both are supposed to work, but one is significantly easier, I'll go with that until I'm proven otherwise. As for putting the garden to sleep, I don't do that.  I'm in zone 5/6. Plenty of things grow over winter some with cover and some without. Why waste a season? I would argue that it is the healthiest option for the soil because it means living roots.



True, but that also includes winter rye (or winter wheat)
 
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I was just at a gardening talk where they said the same thing.  When talking about the beneficial insects they said to leave the garden debris and leaves and dead plant stalks in place so their cocoons and eggs could overwinter.  Then 10 minutes later when talking about pests, they said to remove all the leaves and debris to get rid of the eggs.  

My theory is to support the beneficials so they can eventually overpower the pests.  Plus it's easier to not clean up and it covers the soil more than clearing it out.

Personally we spread compost in the fall and cover it up with grass and leaf clippings (2-4" thick).  We think it protects the soil and it's our annual organic matter addition to the beds.
 
Amit Enventres
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Travis Johnson wrote:

True, but that also includes winter rye (or winter wheat)



Yep-there's those and garlic,  hardy onions,  green onions, parsnip, burdock, corn salad,

and with protection like a piece of plastic awkwardly suspended above it: spinach, cilantro, some varieties of romaine, some young carrots, some types of broccoli, collards, sometimes a kale or two and occasionally some swiss chard.

Probably there's others I haven't remembered or heard of too.
 
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I usually just chop & drop the spent plants, put some rabbit manure on the surface and cover with a layer of wood chips. I did have some beans get mosiac last spring, so I disposed of them outside the garden.
I live in Texas, so usually just put the garden down for a "nap" over winter instead of putting it "to bed," since it's mild enough to grow kale, chard, peas, turnips, and other cold-tolerant vegetables over the winter. I like to space them out around the annual veggie garden and mulch the unused space with 8+ inches of shredded leaves/wood chips to break down over winter.
The only real pest problem I had this year was squash bugs and aphids. Hopefully next year I'll get more predators to help control them.
 
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I tend to remove sturdy stalks like corn & sunflowers to use in a compost pile or to drop on future garden areas. Everything else is chopped & dropped. Then some almost composted cow pies are spread around & large amounts of tree leaves are added on top. Kitchen scraps are buried throughout the year. Camp fire ashes (lime) are also added as they become available. Chickens are encouraged to dig in the leaves to mix it all up & work the goodies into the soil.

 
Daniel Ackerman
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Thanks for the great replies! I’ll probably clear the spent tomatoes, mostly for aesthetic reasons since our primary garden is in the front of our house, and leave a lot of the rest. Spread some compost, throw in some cover crop, and dump on some wood chips.

We lost an old Japanese maple to verticillium wilt, and it came down today. Sad as it is, it opens up space for a food tree or two. And supplied me with some more wood chips.

Cheers!
Daniel
 
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