Putting Your Garden to Bed at the End of the Season
What to do at the end of the gardening season:
- Plant garlic in October before the ground freezes but after the
weather has cooled. Here is a link to more tips on how to grow
- Cut off Swiss chard and it will come back in year 2.
Collect seeds in the 2nd year because it is a biennial
- Leave root vegetable (including parsnips) in the ground
untilthe first hard frost.
- Chop up carrot tops, pea plants and Swiss chard harmed by hail
with garden shears and then dig them into the soil.
- Leave some plant matter in the soil in order to prevent
erosion. Sunflowers, corn, chives and other perennials add winter
interest to a garden.
- Plant fall rye as a cover crop. It helps restore
nutrients to the soil and also helps control soil erosion.
Sow it sparingly as in 1 handful of seed in a 4 ft x 8 ft
garden bed. (One pound of fall rye seed will provide cover crop for
46 garden beds.) Spread the fall rye seed on top of the soil,
let it sporut and come up in spring. Then turn the green
shoots under when 4 they are 4 inches tall.
- If you sow too much fall rye and in the spring you have a
matted thatch of plant roots then chop it up heavily and dig it
- Sources of fall rye seeds include West Coast Seeds, Seedy
Saturday vendors, UFA Grain Store in Airdrie (ask if the fall rye
is genetically modified) and Incredigrow in Calgary. Most
regular garden centres tend not to have fall rye in stock.
- Be very careful of using Red Clover as a cover crop because it
is a perennial.
- Preserve your soil integrity and soil structure and add compost
in both fall and spring. In the fall you can add partially rotted
compost material and it will have decomposed by springtime. In
springtime only add finished, finely textured compost to your
- Place a layer of compost on your garden and dig it in slightly.
If you do not dig it in, the sun and wind will kill off the
- Put your vegetable and fruit peelings into a blender with water
and puree the mixture and pour it over the garden bed in the fall
so that it composts over the winter season.
- In springtime spray compost tea over your garden bed. In
addition you can take the youngest, earliest weeds (that have not
gone to seeds) and add water. Let it soak (it will smell bad
because you are making weed water) and then pour the water off it
into the area between rows of seeds.
- Rol-Land Farms in Crossfield ofters mushroom substrate to
gardeners. This improves the texture of soil to lighten it but it
is not nutrient-rich. It is best to add it in the fall so
that it can mellow over the winter.
- Row covers help prevent soil erosion during a warm winter and
also deters magpies, moths and the carrot rust fly.
- Place a layer of straw (not hay!) on the ground or 2 inches of
leaves or a coconut coir straw mat and put a lattice on top to keep
the ground covers from being blown away by wind.
- Never use hay to cover your garden. Hay is full of seeds.
You can tell them apart because straw is flatter, has no
leaves and is flatter. Hay grass tends to be
- Do not use straw bales from Stampede time because they have
been treated with fire retardant chemicals.
- Buy straw at UFA Store in Airdrie or try Fairplay Stores,
Cobblestone or Spruce it Up Garden Centres.
- When you are a Calgary Horticultural Society member you can use
the online forum to locate garden supplies and plant materials
being given away.
Give soil a 3 year rest after growing potatoes.
Year 1: Legumes
Year 2: Leafy crops
Year 3: Roots and Bulbs
Years 4: Fruit
Include in your community garden landscape design more than
vegetables. Find places for fruit shrubs and floral
perennials for winter visual interest.
- There is debate amongst community gardeners regarding how to
maintain soil integrity and winter visual interest and the urban
preference to have community garden beds be completely cleared of
all vegetation during the winter season. The choices made
really depend on the garden's location. In some cases the
garden area is used for winter sports or due to residential
complaints about looking at the garden in winter. In other
circumstances a second blooming of raspberries is welcomed by the
- There are teaching opportunities to showcase year round what is
happening in a community garden and to celebrate nature during all
seasons. In other situations, not clearing your garden bed by
October can get you kicked out of the community garden.
- One universally attractive winter interest item is to create
ice inukshuks by freezing containers of water and balancing the ice
shapes made by the containers on top of one another. Beet
juice can be used to dye some of the water pink for color interest.
When a warm Chinook wind comes during the winter, the ice inukshuks
melt giving needed moisture to the soil.