Tips from Olle Garden Bed: Cover in Winter to Protect Cold Resistant Crops

As the leaves began to lighten and fall, and the cold wind stung the air, we began to pull out sweaters, hats and scarves from the depths of the closet. It was time to consider preparing our garden for winter. The following content also has some reference value for raised garden beds.

Winter coverage is an important part of my preparation procedure every autumn and winter. Although this may feel like an unnecessary step, I find it very valuable in the short term and long term. It can protect plants, extend the harvest and improve the soil!

raised garden bed

What is winter cover?

Winter cover is just a thick layer of organic material covering the garden bed. This will help perennial plants endure repeated freezing and thawing, extend the harvest season of some annual crops, and protect the bare soil from the harsh winter conditions.

Although similar in some respects to the mulch that occurs in the horticultural season, the specific purpose of winter mulch is to protect plants and soil from the harsh effects of winter, and requires more specific time and care.

Why do you do this?

This process protects perennial herbs and woody plants from the cycle of freezing and thawing, cold rain and cold wind. In particular, it can enhance the cold tolerance of vulnerable seedlings, and ensure that perennial plants start to grow again with greater vitality in spring.

It can also protect the soil from compaction and erosion caused by heavy rain and snow in winter, and prevent soil nutrients from being leached. When the material starts to decompose in spring, it can even increase soil fertility.

This technology can even allow us to extend the harvest season of more cold resistant annual vegetables. If the heat insulation is good, these vegetables can survive in the winter soil.

The purpose of winter covering is to protect perennial plants, extend the harvest of annual crops, and improve the fertility of fallow beds. The purpose is slightly different, and the method and time are different.

Winter cover of perennial plants

It is especially important for fragile seedlings. Before winter, cover perennial herbs and woody plants to prevent the ground from thawing due to the warmth of the sun after freezing. The repeated freezing and thawing that often occurs in early winter will cause the ground to expand and contract, which in turn will loosen the roots, push them upward, and expose the crown and roots to freezing temperature, dry air and wind.

In addition, if the plant will thaw once it enters the dormancy state, it may become confused and start a new growth cycle in winter, which will lead to repeated withering and general pressure on plants.

raised garden bed

Placing insulating materials around perennials ensures that ground temperatures remain consistent until spring and helps to protect moisture in the soil.

Wait till the time is ripe

Although it may be tempting to start this process as early as possible, it is important to wait until the soil starts to harden and the plants enter a dormant state before applying insulating materials to perennial plants. This should be after the first hard frost, when the annual plants have died, usually when the temperature drops below 25 ° F. It is important to wait until the ground freezes, because the goal is to prevent the soil from warming and keep the plants dormant.

First remove all weeds around the plant. Next, spread at least 2 to 4 inches of material around the base of the plant. The more, the better.

If you cover woody plants, such as shrubs or small fruit trees, it is best to leave a few inches of space around the stems. This will help reduce the risk of disease and prevent rodents such as voles and mice from chewing the bark.

Winter cover of annual crops

In contrast to perennial plants, annual crops are mainly covered in winter to keep the ground warm and prevent it from freezing for as long as possible, so as to prolong the harvest season as much as possible. Depending on your climate, crop and mulch thickness, sometimes this process can even allow crops to be harvested in winter.

Cover annual autumn crops before ground freezes. Crops such as carrots, parsnips, radishes, beets, turnips and kale usually last until winter, with additional insulation to prevent the soil from freezing.

In the more severe climate of Zone 1-3, crops may need additional protection, such as floating row covers, hoop houses or cold shelves to survive.

How to overwrite

To prepare annual crops to extend harvest time, cover plants with 1-2 feet of straw, leaves, or other organic material before the ground freezes. Fix the whole thing in place with row covers, old sheets or garden blankets to prevent the material from being blown away during winter storms.

You can fix the lid with rocks, logs or garden staples. Also remember to mark your beds with high stakes, as you may not find them again under the snow!

Tip: Kale and kale can be protected by surrounding plants. Burlap is used to wrap wooden piles, and leaves or straw are used to fill the space for heat insulation.

Some crops, such as garlic and some varieties of onions, are planted in autumn for spring or summer harvest. Cover these beds thickly with leaves or straw to protect bulbs for winter. In spring, move the leaves aside so that they can penetrate and reach the sun faster.

raised garden bed

In this guide, we will delve into the use of leaves as compost and mulch.

Winter cover of fallow beds

Unplanted fallow beds can be covered with organic material at any time in the autumn. This will protect the bare soil, help the soil retain water, reduce erosion, and accumulate nutrients. In this way, when you plant again in spring, the soil will be nutritious, healthy and moist!

Thousand layer mulch is a good technology to protect fallow beds. You plan to plant nutritious annual crops in spring, or wherever you want to improve the soil.

To build a thousand layer bed, just stack 4 or more layers of organic materials to make various thousand layers. Each layer should be several inches thick. Try alternating green and brown materials, as in a compost bin:

Green vegetables (materials rich in nitrogen): aged feces, compost, garden garbage, and grass chips

Brown (carbon rich material): leaves, straw, hay, sawdust, sawdust

Use any combination of ingredients you have. After the organic material is layered, you can cover the whole thing with burlap or garden blanket to create a warmer composting environment and "cook lasagna". By spring, the layers should have broken down obviously, creating a nutritious environment for planting!

Another way to protect fallow beds in winter is to plant winter mulch crops.

What type of material is best?

Many types of organic materials can be well used as winter coverings. The type you choose may depend on the type of plant you are planting or planning to plant, your budget, and what you have at hand. Here are some common types of covering materials and where they are most useful:


Sawdust may be a good choice for woody plants and perennial plants, because their components are decomposed into soil dominated by fungi, which is the preferred soil type for woody perennial plants. The use of sawdust can also reduce the risk of slugs and other small rodents, which may be a problem with some other types of mulch, such as leaves and straw.

Sawdust can be found everywhere in landscape shops, and it may also be a free resource for creative people. Look for logging services, parks or carpenters that may produce sawdust as a by-product.


Straw is a very good and easy to find cover, which is very suitable for protecting annual crops, such as carrots and kale.

Straw is a particularly good choice for strawberries. Local farms may be a good source.

Hay can be substituted, but know that you may introduce more weeds and grass seeds into your garden.


Chopped, chopped or whole leaves are a wonderful and completely free source of winter protection for your garden! Don't use your leaves as garbage bags this year. Instead, collect them and put them on your garden bed. Ask your neighbors, too!

Leaves are ideal for vegetable or fallow garden beds. They are especially suitable for pumpkins and pumpkins. As a reminder, leaves can become a comfortable home for slugs in wet conditions, so please pay attention!

Pine needle

Pine needles are another convenient and potentially free source of mulch.

These can be well applied to perennial plants and bundled with onions and garlic beds.


Sawdust is very suitable for perennial plants, such as berries and small fruits.

It can also provide a good "brown" layer for the beds.

Aged Compost

Compost is great almost anywhere!

Add additional compost to the fallow bed, flank the annual crop, and then add a thicker layer of straw on top or layer a few inches around the perennial.


Believe it or not, snow is a good insulator.

garden beds

If you are lucky to receive an early and lasting snow blanket, please rest assured that those perennial plants will sleep soundly under the white in winter.

Spring will come again

In spring, wait until all the danger of severe frost has passed to remove or loosen the winter cover. It is completely removed from the top of perennial plants to promote rapid new growth.

In annual beds or beds that have been fallowed, the material is left in place to continue to decompose and protect the soil from weeds. When you are ready to plant, you can rake it aside and move it back to its original position when the new seedlings are established.

It's time to get comfortable

We all slow down in winter. Just as the animals in the forest go into hibernation, and we nourish ourselves with comfortable and warm blankets and long sleep, our gardens have similar needs. Through winter covering, we can help our plants get what they need to endure winter and feel refreshed on the other side!

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