2 acre farm: Gardening Doesn't End When Winter Arrives

2 acre farm

The experiences, trials, and lives on a small farm in rural Illinois.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gardening Doesn't End When Winter Arrives

The following is an article I wrote a while back for another site. Although it is a little out of season some of it is a good reminder for all of us gardeners, self included. I have to admit what made me think to post this is the fact I still haven't tuned up my tiller and need to get it done before I need to start it. Though I didn’t follow the engine maintenance part of my advice I think I stuck to the rest pretty well this year. How’s everyone else’s garden prep looking for spring?

Often we think that when fall and winter arrive it is time to close up shop in the gardening department. This thinking may work for your local big box store but if you want to have a thriving garden next year there are plenty of tasks to be completed before spring comes again.
Winter doesn't have to be the hum drum time of year many gardeners associate it with. In fact winter tasks can keep you as busy as or possibly busier than a garden in the full swing of summer production. Completing some or all of the following tasks will help ensure you have a successful garden next year and will also make your gardening experience more pleasant.

The first things to get done are the outside chores before winter fully moves in and it gets too cold to be outside. Always look over any outside equipment like composters, sheds, trellises, and fences. Check for repairs needed now while you have the time and aren't devoted to weed control. Take all those leaves you raked and spread them on your garden, compost them, or get some leaf mould in the making. If you bought any straw bales for fall decorations and are looking for a purpose for them, treat them like the leaves now before they weigh five hundred pounds. If you had a bumper crop of weeds this year or are planning to start a new bed get some preliminary tilling done now. Tilling in the fall or early winter will get sod rotting quicker and will often cause annual weed seeds to germinate and die before spring comes, greatly reducing the amount of weeds in your garden the following year. Finally take this time to empty out pots that contained annuals, clean them, and store them out of the weather so they do not crack from freezing.
As winter moves into full swing it is time to move into the garage or shed and get out of those blistering northern winds. Clean all your hand tools with a wire brush, then sharpen any edges that need it, and top it all off by wiping a liberal coat of linseed oil on all wood and metal surfaces to preserve them. While in the garage it is also a good time to give your mechanized tools their overdue maintenance. Change the oil, fuel filter, spark plugs, and clean air filters on all engines. Grease the necessary grease zerks and points of movement. Again sharpen blades on tillers and mowers. Clean or rebuild carburetors as needed. You'll be thanking yourself when all your engines fire up on the first pull or turn of the key in spring.

The last thing is to not forget the garden itself. Get your seed catalogues out and order your seeds by January. For most parts of the country you will need to be starting any transplants in February and March. You don't want to find yourself getting the infamous "out of stock" reply when you go to order your seeds. Nothing is worse than searching town for a particular vegetable seed you were going to grow, finally finding it and getting it out too late.
If these steps are followed you can expect the best results and the easiest gardening experience. Nothing can replace good preparation and no time is better for garden preparation than winter.

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