As the seasons change and cold weather comes in, temperatures are going to start to drop which means frost, and eventually a hard freeze. There are a number of things that we can do to prepare our homestead, garden or hobby farm for the inevitable winter weather.
Prepare Garden Beds
If you have any garden structures such as bean poles and tomato trellises, you’ll want to dissemble and get them cleaned up. Pull any t-posts from around the hobby farm and put them away for the winter.
Some plants, like tomatoes, should be removed from the garden as well. I recommend burning them. Leaving tomato plants in the garden all winter, or putting them into your compost to break down, may transfer diseases into next year’s garden.
Consider planting a cover crop of winter wheat, rye or vetch. This will help prevent erosion over the winter and will also add nutrients to the soil. This is also a good time to add compost or manure to your garden beds.
Bring Frost-Sensitive Plants Indoors
Consider bringing in your frost-sensitive plants for the winter. This would include tropical plants and herbs such as rosemary, aloe, bay etc. If these plants are growing in your garden beds, dig them up. Put them in containers and keep them indoors in a south-facing window.
Some plants that we might grow as annuals, like peppers, are actually perennials. These will continue to produce throughout the winter if we bring them inside.
Harvest Remaining Crops
Get out into the gardens for one last harvest of frost-sensitive crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants etc. A cold snap will ruin these crops. So be sure to gather one last round of tasty summer fruits before it’s too late.
More cold-tolerant crops such as cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts won’t mind the cold temperatures and will actually taste sweeter after a light freeze.
Harvest Your Herbs
Just like with your veggies, you need to harvest the last of your herbs before that winter weather hits. Some herbs are more cold-tolerant. But others, such as basil, can’t handle cold temperatures and will need to be harvested right away.
Gather, dry and process your herbs and you’ll be able to enjoy them all winter long.
While you’re out in the gardens harvesting your vegetables and herbs, don’t forget that it’s also time to collect seeds for planting next year. The seeds for many of our garden crops will be ruined by a hard freeze. It’s important to gather them up before that happens.
As the plants mature, and the seeds ripen and dry down, simply gather them up. Clean any debris from the seeds and store them in a cool, dark place until next spring.
Plant Garlic & Wheat
Even though winter is approaching, there is still some planting around the hobby farm that can be done! Some crops, like flower bulbs, garlic and winter wheat need to be planted in the late fall to be enjoyed the following year.
When planting garlic, be sure to mulch the area well. This will protect the young sprouts to ensure their survival in the garden throughout the winter.
Check Your Heat Sources
We want to be sure we’re prepared to keep our homes warm throughout the winter, too! If you heat with wood, you’ll want to make sure that you have enough of it split and stack to get you through until spring.
If you use propane to heat your home, this is a great time to check your tank and have it refilled if necessary.
Clean up the Yard
Take a walk through your yard and gardens and collect any tools, toys or other things that haven’t been properly put away yet. Leaving your garden tools out all winter will cause them to rust.
Also gather up any flower pots and put them in the shed before they’re buried under the snow. Freezing temperatures could cause your flower pots to crack and break. Put them in the garage or in a shed to help avoid this.
This is also the time to unhook and put away any hoses and to drain your rain barrels. These can easily be damaged during the winter if not properly taken care of.
Check on the Animals
We also want to be sure to take good care of the animals on our farm. Adding some extra straw to their coops or in the barn will help keep them warm during the cold winter nights. Consider using a heating element to keep their water supply thawed as well.
Plan for Next Year
After winter hits and the gardens are covered in snow, there’s still work to be done: planning next year’s garden! While the memories of his year’s successes and failures are still fresh is the best time to start making plans for next year.
Spend your winter flipping through seed catalogs, making lists and dreaming about everything you’d like to do and grow next year. Remember, your hobby farm can be fun, even in the winter.