March 30th

theresa albert - my friend in food


Nighty Night – Putting Your Garden to Bed


Tucking your garden in for the winter is a bittersweet autumn project that’s full of conflicting feelings. On the one hand, saying goodbye to summer and all her bounty can be depressing, especially when faced with the prospect of an ice-cold winter, mounds of slush, snow and short, dark days. But it’s also exciting to don your favorite cable knit sweater and harvest a juicy butternut squash that’s destined for a cozy, savory soup. Fall is the most joyous time for cooking, especially when you’ve grown your own food. So now the time is nearing for the end-of-season garden to get some tender loving care so it will produce well for you next season.

Cranberry Pole bean seeds saved for next year.

First up? Clean Up.

Once you’ve harvested the last of your fruits and veggies and saved your seeds for next year, go through all the beds and trellises and remove the dead and decaying debris. Then put it in your compost. If you’ve got weeds that have gone to seed it’s better to bag them and put them out for collection. Weed seeds in your compost can come back to haunt you next year. Make sure you pull all the roots up from the remaining plants because many pests and their eggs like to overwinter there. Toss those in the compost bin as well. Hopefully this compost will be ready to use in the spring.

Remove all plant debris from trellises and beds.

Next, feed the soil.

Your soil has worked hard all season to feed your plants and is now very likely depleted. I like to work in about a three-inch layer of organic compost in both the autumn and the spring. This brings the soil back up to full levels and provides the much-needed nutrients and micronutrients the plants need to thrive. It also helps maintain a good soil structure, which is important for optimal drainage, aeration and root growth.

Bundle Up

The final step in tucking your garden in for the winter is adding a three-inch thick layer of organic straw or some other mulch that is hopefully free of seed. Mulch protects the soil from harmful ultra violet light rays, helps retain moisture and prevents animals from digging or using the beds as a litter box. I’ve heard that mulch can sometimes provide a home for slugs and other bugs but I have not found this to be the case. Cover the mulch with a sheet of bird netting and secure it with tent pegs to keep the straw from blowing away.

A well fed and protected garden bed will yield great results next season.

Cleaning up your garden in the fall can bring a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. It’s a perfect time to review your successes and consider some new approaches if things didn’t work out as well as you had planned. Now you can brew up a steaming pot of mint tea from your herb garden, put your feet up, survey your neat and tidy the landscape and start thinking about what you’re going to plant next year.



Arlene Hazzan Green is an urban farmer and television director with one foot in the dirt and one in high heels. Along with her husband Marc Green she founded The Backyard Urban Farm Company with the goal of igniting people’s passion for growing their own food. Together they design, install and maintain organic vegetable gardens in homes, schools and businesses in the Greater Toronto Area. For more info about Arlene please visit


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