Friday, October 15, 2021

After the Harvest

By: Candice Keast

It's hard to believe the growing season is nearly over. As the growing season comes to a close, there are a few things you'll want to do to get your garden space ready for winter. Have you started to wind down and prepare your garden for winter? If not, we've got you covered!

Start by checking out the following video. It's the last installment of our three-part Get Growing Toronto video series. The video briefly touches on harvesting tender crops, protecting hardy perennials, amending soil, planting garlic, saving seeds, and tidying up before the frost/winter. After the video, we expand on a few of these topics and highlight season extension and cover crops. 

Continue reading to learn more about:
  • Seed saving
  • Planting garlic
  • Season extension
  • Cover crops
  • Tidy Up Checklist

๐ŸŒฑ  Seed Saving 

Did you grow a particularly delicious type of tomato this year? Set yourself up with next year's seeds by saving seeds from this year's harvest! Some plants you like might not be on the market in the future, so this is a great way to ensure you always have access to them.


There are a variety of benefits to seed saving and many plants you can easily save seeds from. Some of the most common genetically engineered plants are mass-produced and account for most seeds sold at stores. Keeping different seed varieties can preserve genetic diversity, save rare heirloom varieties from extinction, and increase crop resiliency to changing conditions induced by climate change. The more types of seeds you keep and circulate with your community, the better chance those plants have at surviving and adapting to changing conditions over time.


Share with your friends, family, neighbours, and community or participate in the Toronto Seed Library or Seedy Saturday exchanges across Toronto.


Learn how to save seeds from a variety of plants here.


๐Ÿง„  Planting Garlic 

The best time to plant garlic is after the fall equinox (September 21) to November. Over the fall and winter months, garlic roots will start to develop. By June, you'll have fresh garlic scapes to harvest, and in July, you'll be able to harvest the garlic bulbs. 

If you decide to plant garlic in your garden this fall, choose Ontario grown and organic if possible. Simply stick your thumb into some bare soil in your garden and place a single clove into it (pointy side up).  For healthy garlic, you can sprinkle some compost into each hole before planting and mulch over the top. Untreated straw is a great mulch option. Be sure to label the area where you placed your garlic, so you remember where you planted the garlic next spring.

Read more about planting garlic here.

⏩  Season Extension 

Hardy plants such as salad greens and root vegetables are all cold-tolerant and will continue to thrive outside even as the temperatures cool down. You can even further the growing season by providing coverage for these plants to protect them from the elements. Coverage includes cloches (see image), cold frames, and row covers. Using a cold frame, for example, actually creates a greenhouse effect, locking in moisture and warmth, allowing you to extend your season with ease.

In-ground garden with 4 cloches covering 4 individual heads of lettuce. b

Additionally, you can insulate your plants with straw, leaves, or mulch. Keep in mind that traditional mulch (wood chips) can be too dense and make it difficult for overwintering pollinators to make nests in the soil. For containers, you can insulate further by adding a layer of plastic and then a layer of burlap around a potted plant.

๐ŸŒพ  Cover Crops 

Cover crops are soil-healing-nitrogen-fixing miracles! Scatter the seeds of these fast-growing plants in any sized garden in the fall. Then over the winter months, these crops will renew soil health, improve soil structure, build soil fertility, and add essential organic matter to your garden, preparing you for a healthier garden next season. The most commons cover crops used in gardens are various types of grasses or legumes.

Try growing cover crops if you're looking for a way to improve soil quality, prevent erosion, and control weeds. 

๐Ÿงน  Tidy Up Checklist

In addition to the topics mentioned in the video and above, you'll want to tidy up! General prep for winter includes: 
  • Clean, sharpen, and put away tools
  • Prepare for freezing temperatures
    • Drain hose
    • Empty containers where water has accumulated
    • Bring in ceramic pots 
  • Leave the leaves! (and dead stems) - Beneficial insects, including some pollinators, overwinter in leaf litter and hollowed-out stems. By refraining from raking the leaves for yard waste pick-up, you'll provide crucial habitat for overwintering bees and butterflies. If you have a lawn and don't want it covered in leaves, rake them into your garden.

What do you do to prepare your garden for winter? Share in the comment section below or to social media. Use the hashtag #GetGrowing and tag us @LiveGreenTO.

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