Posted on 10 October 2011 by

Preparing the Tomato Garden for Winter


By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

Once again, the garden season is coming to a close and I realize now how much I am going to miss it.

Before I begin to close down the garden space, I pull out my garden log and make sure that I have everything labeled that I want labeled.

I am very detailed in my record keeping when it comes to my garden and some may even say obsessed.

When recording my garden space, I note where each variety of tomato is located.

Before the garden is finished, I return to this notebook and check those varieties that did well. I also indicate those varieties that I saved seed from and where that is located.

After my garden log is complete, I then begin to clean the garden. I remove any tomatoes that are ripe or those I feel I can ripen. I remove the plant supports and pull up the plants. I do not compost my tomato plants or the fruit. This could transfer any possible plant disease into the compost pile. Instead I throw this type of plant material into the trash.

Once this is done, one can till the garden or just rake in a good amount of compost. To control soil erosion and provide fertilizer next spring, I plant a green manure such as vetch. This type of manure will absorb the last bit of soil nutrition before the winter winds blow. Then it is tilled under in the spring releasing the nourishment back into the soil when the plants can use it.

If your garden was in a raised bed, you still have some end of the season chores to do. First remove all the plant material and add the compost. Mix it in thoroughly smooth the soil surface. At this point you have to choices. One choice is to plant a green manure. The second choice is to seal off the raised bed. If I had a severe weed problem in this year’s garden, I choose this approach. To seal the bed off, simply take black plastic and staple it along the top of the bed. This will prevent any weed seeds from blowing into the bed and will allow the soil to be sterilized through solar radiation.

If your garden was in the form of a container garden, the approach is a little different. First empty the containers of all soil. Again do not place this soil in the compost bin. Soil that has had tomatoes planted into can contain nematodes and other pests that can be carried over to next year. Next move the containers into some sheltered area such as basement, shed, or garage. This will prevent the containers from cracking due to the weather.

Regardless of how you tomato garden, there still exists chores that need to be done before the winter winds blow. So until we blog again, spring is the season the garden wakes up, summer is the season with all the growth while fall is the prep for the winter slumber doze. But do not slumber with your garden, until a fresh bed has been made, because we all know how important a good deep slumber can be for the health and wealth of everything that lays.

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