Just in case you had not noticed snow in the mountains or flurries in the air, old man winter is knocking on Utah’s door. While I honestly breathe a sigh of relief at first snowfall because Extension horticulture programs slow down until the reemergence of spring gardening fever, it is still hard to accept an end to sun ripened tomatoes and garden fresh basil for 9 very long months.
Here are a few things you might want to do before you hang the closed sign on your garden for winter.
- Pull, cut back and clean-up plant debris and place in yard waste bin or compost pile if plant matter is not diseased and does not contain weed seeds.
- Scatter wildflower seed – some Utah native wildflowers require a cold stratification treatment for seeds to germinate the following year.
- Cover frost sensitive plants with frost cloth at night to extend harvest a few precious days longer!
- Plant and mark garlic cloves
- Winterize your irrigation system (blow out lines with an air compressor so trapped water does not freeze and shatter lines).
- Rake-up leaves. Either you can mulch (chop-up into small pieces) non-diseased leaves and put them in your compost pile with some nitrogen fertilizer or you can let the city compost them for you. Whole leaves will not break-down in the garden by spring.
- Bring cold sensitive plants inside your house or greenhouse. Plants that can transition between indoors (winter) and out (summer) include citrus, bay laurel trees and rosemary.Remember to put a moisture barrier between your floor and the pottery to avoid water damage in the house.
- Place non-freeze tolerant containers (unglazed terracotta) in sheltered area (garage or shed).
- Put birdseed out for the birds.
- Harvest herbs and dry for winter use in the kitchen.
*Bonus Tip: I like to also harvest hot peppers, tomatoes, and basil. Peppers can be dried and enjoyed on pizza, in pasta sauce or a homemade hot sauce. Red tomatoes can be sliced, seasoned, and dried in a low oven (200°F) for several hours for homemade ‘oven dried tomatoes’. Have you ever tried fried green tomatoes? If not, you should! Slice, season, and fry up green tomatoes to enjoy on a BLT sandwich – you will be amazed by what you have been missing! Fresh basil makes great pesto which can be frozen for winter-long enjoyment.