Winter Garden Clean-Up by Byron Chitwood
It is time to clean up the garden patch now that we have had some real cold weather. Start with the asparagus bed. The freezes killed the top growth of the asparagus so it is time to remove the dead ferns and get ready for the next harvest season which begins in late February or early march. First of all, the freeze was beneficial since it killed all the chiggers or red bugs. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about getting bitten by these critters. Just wade into the dead ferns and begin by cutting out the ferns that have the red berries. Be careful not to knock any of the berries off since they will invariably sprout. What sprouts are little wirey plants and they will never get any larger in diameter. Bury these ones with the berries in the mulch pile. Then cut the rest of the ferns off to ground level. Shred them and add to the mulch pile or if they are shredded fine enough, put them back on the asparagus bed as mulch. Continue by mulching the asparagus bed with compost and additional leaves that will mostly decompose in the next few months.
If you plan to plant potatoes and onions in your early spring garden, clear the area of all old growth and weeds where you plan to plant these two vegetables. Then put about 2 to 4 inches of leaves on these areas and till them under. Till to a depth of 4 to six inches. These leaves should be pretty well composted in time for planting which is about mid-February. To somewhat speed up the composting of the leaves, especially from oak trees, you might want to shred them with your rotary lawnmower. Hopefully you can get that lawnmower started. That will remind you to put a stabilizer in the fuel system of all your motorized lawn and garden equipment as well as any gasoline that you have stored in containers.
Some weeds and grasses thrive during cold weather. This is especially true of winter rye grass and henbit. It is best to not let these weeds get out of hand so keep the garden weeded during the winter. A good way to do this is to cover all the areas with about four inches of leaves. If you have done like I do and let the rest of the neighborhood rake, bag and put the leaves on the curb for trash pickup day, gather up these bags of leaves home and use the leaves for the mulching process. Salvage the bags. Cut the bags down both sides: unfold them into one layer and lay them on the soil. Put just enough soil on the bags so they don’t blow away. Most weeds and grasses will not grow under these bags plus when it is time to plant seeds, the soil will be a few degrees warmer. Just after the bags have been removed, plant seeds.
This little bit of advice if followed, will make your spring gardening much easier. You have also salvaged and recycled some plastic bags and conserved some valuable resources such as the leaves and dead plant material.