Raised beds have many advantages when used for vegetable gardening, including ease of winter preparation. Proper winter maintenance will improve your harvest and reduce maintenance the rest of the year. With some basic steps, you’ll have your raised bed vegetable garden prepped for winter and ready to plant early in the spring.
How to Care for Your Raised Bed in Winter
Things You'll Need
- Shovel or pitchfork
- 10-10-10 fertilizer
Step 1: Clean the Bed
Remove the old vegetable plant material from the bed. This discourages the spread of insects and diseases.
Make a simple compost bin if you don’t already have one and throw the plant material in it.
Step 2: Fill the Bed
Check your soil mixture level. Raised beds lose some soil from rain and the level drops as the soil compacts. Top off the soil mix if needed using 1 part each of topsoil, compost and vermiculite. Turn the soil with a shovel or pitchfork to mix in the new additives and loosen the soil.
Step 3: Mulch the Bed
Spread a layer of mulch over the bed. Mulch helps prevent any weed seeds that may have blown into the bed from sprouting in the spring. It also protects against soil loss in the winter. Leaves from your yard or non-treated grass cuttings work well as winter mulch.
If you plan to plant a winter crop, mulch after the plants have grown at least a few inches tall to help maintain soil warmth, as well as provide the other benefits of mulch.
Step 4: Fertilize the Bed
Add fertilizer to the bed in late winter or a few weeks before planting. Use a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer at the appropriate rate for the size of the bed. Usually about 1 pound per 100 square feet is recommended. If your bed measures 3 feet by 8 feet, you would use approximately ¼ of a pound, or 4 ounces of fertilizer. Mix the mulch material and fertilizer into the bed.
Make the Most of a Raised Bed for Vegetables
To make the most of your raised bed for vegetable growing, take advantage of some of the benefits to extend the growing season. Raised beds stay warm longer in the fall and warm earlier in the spring. Use a frost blanket or plastic to cover plants in the fall if you live in a cold, early frost climate. By covering the plants at night, your harvest extends a couple of weeks. Check your average last frost date for your hardiness zone. Cover the bed with clear or black plastic a couple of weeks before that date to help warm the soil. This should allow you to plant seeds a little sooner.