Tips for Tidying Up Your Vegetable Garden for Winter

fall vegetable garden

When the calendar flips over to the fall season many gardeners immediately hang up their gardening gloves for the year. This is a mistake! If you take some time in fall to prepare your vegetable garden for winter, you’ll reap the rewards in spring with fewer weeds to battle, more healthy soil, and even some vegetables already growing early in the season.

Plus, fall is one of the most pleasant times of the year to be out in your yard basking in the cool, bright sunshine and the slower pace of life. (And no mosquitoes!!!)

Here’s what you should put on your garden clean up to-do list.


5 Tasks to Prepare Your Vegetable Garden For Winter

clean out plant debris to clean up your garden for winter

Clean out plant debris. Because some pests and diseases overwinter on plant debris, it’s important to clear out spent vegetable plants. You should dispose of diseased plants in the trash (unless you have a hot compost pile). All other plants can be placed in your home compost area, put out for your town’s leaf collection, or taken to a yard waste composting site.

This is such an important step that I dedicated an entire blog post to it.



Mulch all garden beds. As you go about your fall clean up, make sure you’re not leaving bare soil behind. The winter cold and winds can be tough on garden soil and in the spring the weeds start growing especially early on bare soil. A thick layer of mulch will protect the soil over the winter and keep it neat and tidy until you can get to it next spring.

I’m a mulching evangelist! I wrote a whole post about mulching your fall garden here.


use row cover to prepare your garden for winter

Cover Plants with Row Cover. Even though you’re tidying up your garden, you’ll want to make sure to leave any fall vegetables that you’re hoping to continue to harvest from this year and next (newly planted garlic, spinach, perennial herbs).

If you’re interested in playing around with season extension, row cover is a great way to start. By placing this thin white fabric over some of your fall vegetables you can protect them from early frosts and continue to harvest them into the late fall and early winter.

Last season, with the help of row cover and greenhouse plastic, I was able to harvest food from my garden in November, December, and February. And I live in Wisconsin!

You can learn how to use row cover in your fall garden here.


Garlic in garden ready to be planted

Plant Garlic. Garlic is one of the easiest, and most fun, crops to grow in the garden. It requires very little maintenance and suffers from few pests and diseases. It’s planted in late October through November in most regions and harvested the next July.  Planting it in fall is like throwing your hat into the ring for another year.

I’ve written a few popular posts on growing garlic: why you should plant it, how to decide what types to grow, and how to harvest and cure it.


plant tulip bulbs to prepare your vegetable garden for winter

Plant bulbs for more spring color.  A few years ago I decided to plant some spring bulbs at the corners of some of my vegetable beds to add some early spring color to my vegetable garden, and I’ve been really happy with the results. Once the bulbs die back in late spring I can plant annual flowers in their place to continue the color into the rest of the season.

I share some tips and photos about using bulbs in your veggie garden in this post and highlight five unusual bulbs to plant in your garden here.

This year, spend some of these amazing days to prepare your vegetable garden for winter. You’ll get some exercise, breathe the fresh air, beautify your garden, and ensure that you’ll have a lot less work to do in the spring!



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  • […] To get you excited to grow garlic in your garden, I’m sharing the reasons why I love it so much and think you should add it to your fall garden to-do list. […]

  • Trish Schweitzer

    I love working in the garden at this time of year. Great tips for clean-up Megan. I am going to plant garlic for the first time this year after reading how enthusiastic you are about it. Last year was the first time I covered my garden with straw and wow – what a difference in getting the garden ready for planting in the spring. I will definitely continue to mulch heavily again this year before the snow flies. I also live in Wisconsin.

    • Hi Trish- I’m so glad to hear that mulch made a big difference in your garden this season. I was just mulching my garden this morning! Garlic is so fun to grow, I hope you like it!

  • […] Creative Vegetable Gardener:Tips for Tidying Up Your Vegetable Garden for Winter […]

  • What a great outline for fall preparation. It is nice to get out in this weather and exciting to start preparing for next spring! We use our leaves, chopped in the mower for cover/mulch in the garden. I especially appreciate your tip about removing dead plant debris/disease. I still have cabbage and brussel sprouts covered in the garden. I just pulled carrots yesterday and they look great. They were covered and did not freeze in the raised bed. I stored them as you recommended in your book “Super Easy Food Preserving”. I am 2 hrs. north so we’ve had temps in the 20’s at night but everything looks good. I won’t be planting garlic this fall since I am still using some from 2 yrs. ago and had a bumper crop this year. I love your suggestion of planting bulbs for some color next spring in the garden and plan to do that!

    • So glad you’ve been finding the info. from my blog and books helpful! When you live somewhere like WI there’s no such thing as too many bulbs in spring, I say!

  • Caroline Rawa

    We have had terrible problems with weeds in the past. We didn’t plant a garden this year as my husband had back surgery. I come to find out that he used “Roundup” in my garden to try and kill the weeds this year. I’m really upset. i’m afraid to plant there anymore. How long does that stuff stick around. Anyone know?

    • Caroline- I’m sorry to hear that! I don’t use chemicals, so I’m not sure how long they last in the soil. I’d do some reading on the internet. In the future if you don’t think you’ll get to a garden area I suggest mulching it thickly or covering it with black plastic to keep down the weeds. Good luck!

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