Raised garden beds are a super popular method for growing vegetables in Pennsylvania, as well as perennials, annuals, and other gorgeous plants. You’re in control of the soil that goes in, so you can be sure it’s loose and nutrient-rich with terrific moisture retention. The soil also tends to thaw faster in spring than soil in the ground so that you can jump into the gardening season even sooner. However, if you don’t properly winterize your raised garden bed, you could run into some challenges once the snow melts.
If you leave your raised beds untouched through fall and winter, snow will pack down on top of all that old plant matter. In spring, you’ll have a slimy, yucky mess! This can encourage bacteria and fungal growth, which isn’t something you want contaminating your soil. Since the soil of your raised garden bed thaws faster, this offers you the opportunity to get a head start. If your garden bed is full of old plants and debris, you’ll have a lot of work to do before you can start planting.
There are also some ways to help insulate the perennial plants in your raised garden bed so they’re protected from the cold. If you properly winterize, you won’t have to worry about any of the above issues—your raised garden bed will be ready to rock as soon as the threat of frost has passed!
A lot of customers ask us, “Should I cover my raised beds with plastic in winter?” We’re happy to report that plastic covering is totally unnecessary! Instead of wasting plastic, there are much more eco-friendly alternatives to getting your raised garden beds ready for winter. Follow these steps in fall to properly winterize your raised beds so your spring plants bounce back healthier than ever.
Pull up any annuals or vegetable plants that won’t survive the winter. You can compost them if they don’t show any signs of fungal growth or disease. Cut back your perennials once their foliage has died in late fall. If you notice any sticks, fall leaves, or other junk hanging around, you can get rid of that, too.
Take out any of your structural equipment like trellises, stakes, and tomato cages. You’ll want to store these safely in a dry location for the winter, but it’s important to sanitize them first! Fungal spores and other nasties can linger on dirty garden equipment over the winter, so a good wipe-down with isopropyl alcohol will keep things clean and sanitary. Once that’s all done, you’re ready to winterize!
Watering the soil before the big freeze will make a massive difference for your tender perennials! To effectively winterize, keep watering regularly until it’s consistently below freezing outside. The water acts as an insulator around perennial roots, so the cold temperatures are less likely to hurt your beautiful plants. It also helps facilitate quick, even thawing once things start to warm up outside.
Mulch is the secret weapon of any skilled gardener! This magic material not only helps winterize and offers insulation, but it blocks weeds from germinating and taking root, and it delivers nutrients into the soil as it breaks down. Spread a 3-inch layer across the surface of the soil in your raised garden bed, and it will act like a cozy blanket for your sleeping perennials.
The Primex Garden Center team are experts in building and maintaining raised garden beds in Pennsylvania. If you need any help getting started, or if you have any further questions about how to winterize, visit us at our garden center in Glenside. We’re always happy to offer gardening guidance!