Into hibernation we go. As the daylight hours grow shorter this month and the cold comes to blanket our gardens with snow, our plants retreat just like we feel like doing. Our annual accenting flowers like zinnias and sunflowers will die completely along with our rooftop peppers and tomatoes. Our perennial plants like apples, sedums, hazelnuts, and jerusalem artichoke will pull all their energy back to their roots and lose their leaves to protect themselves from the freezing temperatures.
To make sure our garden plants and soil are safe this winter and next season, here is what we do at the Tiny Diner to winterize the living spaces:
Thick straw bale mulching on vulnerable perennials
We mulch any exposed area that will not get snow with straw bales. For example, our dry creek bed which does not get covered with snow due to the solar array, will have 2’ thick straw bales to insulate the plants throughout the winter months.
Seeding cover crop to prevent soil erosion
We add cover crop like winter rye to our annual areas (we do this at the beginning of October to make sure the seed sets and roots before the ground freezes). This holds the soil stable where it could blow or wash away if left bare.
Straw-filled coffee bags for insulating small spaces
For more fragile herbaceous plants, new fall perennials or small trees that have not had time to root properly and go deep, we stuff re-purposed coffee bags with straw and place them around trees and on top of herbaceous perennials to help insulate in case there is no snow cover this winter.
Leave grasses and flower stalks alone and refrain from “super-tidy-stripping” life
We DO NOT cut down the flower stalks and grasses on our property to “tidy” the space. This would leave a pollinator dead zone that we do not want to cause. By leaving the stalks and grasses at least 24” around the property, we provide adult insect pollinators and their baby larvae a refuge from the harsh winters before spring hatching.
Last week we cut the last of our flower bouquets from the gardens as the icy sleet came down. This week we will put the finishing touches of insulating mulch and check on our water cistern (make sure it is empty!). The last task that we have to prepare for the very end of the growing season is to dismantle our thicket to make way for a new, more sturdy structure in the spring. More on that soon. Good luck with putting your gardens to sleep in a healthy way!
If you need winterizing tips, feel free to write to the Garden, Market and Farm Adviser: firstname.lastname@example.org.