We asked NGT community gardeners from around the city to share how they are keeping the gardening spirit alive as temperatures drop and daylight fades earlier. Learn how they’re preparing their gardens for the winter below and explore other ideas and resources at ngtrust.org/resources and follow us at @ngtrust for more tools of the trade!
Viery Ricketts-Thomas, of Glenwood Green Acres, prepares her beds by pulling up all the old growth, and vines, and chopping it into small pieces to use for ground covering. It’s important to do this because, in the spring, she will till it over and it makes the soil richer. It’s also important to pull old things up now because it will only be harder in the spring and it keeps weeds down. She also puts down plants like tomatoes and garlic, that will come up in the spring. Trees – fig, chestnut, pear, plum, and more – are put to bed by pruning back branches and putting mulch around them.
Some of the greens – like broccoli, mustard, and kale – will continue to thrive this winter and gardeners will come back to gather them. The garden bed at Glenwood that is designated for City Harvest was very bountiful this year and will have one more picking for donations before being covered for the winter.
While peppers are winding down, Vie uses her Scotch bonnets, ghost peppers, and habanero, among some others, to make a hot sauce.
Naw Doh, a gardener at Mercy Street Garden shares, “In Burma, we don’t do anything in between seasons, mostly we just leave them to let animals eat anything left over. Some plants in Burma we continue to grow because it does not get cold in the winter. At 6th Street, to prepare for the winter we have to clean the plots by removing all of the plants and roots from this season. In March or April we prepare the garden to plant again, and then in May we plant again. After the winter, everyone is so excited to return to the garden and plant again.”
From Addie Johnston at the Water Garden, “I have recycled hay bales from neighbors and use that as insulation for beds to overwinter. And new trees! Like baby fig trees, we blanket the bottom trunk in some hay overwinter. Carla Puppin, of Bel Arbor Community Gardens adds that, “shredded leaves are great–add a couple of inches to the top of the soil. Leave it all winter and then work it in in the spring.
Carla has also constructed cold frames (pictured above) completely from recycled, found, or saved wood and other items. The piece of wood that serves as a prop to hold up the frame when it is open is a found staircase newel post. It is screwed in with a bolt inside so that it can be raised and lowered as needed. Old window frames can serve as the cover – keep the glass in (until you break it as she did) or replace with plexiglass.
Ed Mitinger, PHS’s City Harvest Coordinator, shared some more tips with Fox News. To watch, click here.
Many NGT gardeners use cold frames or fabric to shelter their plants from winter conditions and extend the growing season. Check out some ideas here.