Winter Soils

Ann and her little dog, Gracie, heading into the garden

Ann and her little dog, Gracie, heading into the garden

If you love the earth, gardening is a marvelous way to watch and participate in the changing of the seasons. Here in the north us winter gardeners are busily cutting back dying vegetation and preparing the soil for winter rains or snows. My Australian gardening friends, Linette and Marie, are all excited about new lettuce, basil, and tomato plants—the often more exciting end of the gardening spectrum.

But I love putting my garden to bed and thinking about protecting my soil! Winter rains or snow can severely compact things. And since one-half of a healthy soil is air pockets, avoiding compaction is important.

garden bed covered with leaves

garden bed covered with leaves

One way I protect my soils is to cover them with leaves. Another more productive way is to plant a cover crop. Cover crops not only stabilize soils, they bring deep-rooted minerals to the surface and lessen the loss of nutrients during winter rainfall.

cover crop sprinkled on the soil

cover crop sprinkled on the soil

 

Where I live a good cover crop consists of a mixture of winter rye, fava beans, Austrian field peas, hairy vetch, and crimson clover. Birds love this mix of seed—they are also getting ready for winter! So, to insure that you actually get a cover crop it is helpful to lay down some garden fabric or row cover until the seeds germinate.

cover crop with row cover on top to keep birds from eating the seeds

cover crop with row cover on top to keep birds from eating the seeds

More on cover crops in a few months when I turn ours over!

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5 comments
  1. Gracie!

    Good post. We use leaves on our beds, but someday I’ll do cover crops and even a winter garden.

    I see that you had some fall sunshine up there!

  2. What fun! Here is Australia, I just harvested the first zucchinis of the season and have been eating 2-3 strawberries a day. The tomatoes are planted. (This year I am growing 8 different varieties) and beans are steadily climbing up their archway support. It is so interesting to hear gardening practices from the other side of the planet. I never thought about the weight of snow compacting the earth (as we don’t get snow where I live). This is news of a whole new job in the garden we don’t need to do.

  3. Sarah Pierre said:

    Wondering if you’ve heard about amending your soil with Biochar to improve the fertility and yield? It also protects leaching of nutrients due to excessive rain……

    • Dear Sarah,

      Terrific to see your name come in! No, I have not heard of Biochar. I looked it up on Wikipedia and am quite interested. And I think it is also important to do those natural, easy things that occur naturally in our surroundings. Trust you are well,
      Ann

      • Sarah Pierre said:

        Nice to reconnect. Natural….there should be no other way.
        I am well, thank you.

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