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Get your garden boxes winter ready

It's nearly the end of the year and time to prepare your vegetable garden for winter.

When you do this depends a bit on the weather. Sometimes it's already freezing in October, and sometimes January is still so mild that it seems like winter is being skipped.

That said, November's usually a good month to get your garden ready.
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November: get your Planty Garden ready for winter

What do I mean? Get ready how?

It boils down to this: 
  • remove all the old plants
  • make your vegetable garden completely weed-free
  • make the soil mix light and loose
  • tidy up everything you don't need: pots, labels, bamboo sticks, and garden tools
In a traditional vegetable garden - with rows of raised beds - this is a lot of work. Hard work.
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A raised bed community garden
Just think about it:
  • It takes a lot of effort to remove old plants: they grow huge root balls. You need a rake or a shovel to pull them up.
  • It's a lot of work to remove weeds: they usually spread all over. If you leave them alone, your garden will be totally overgrown by spring.
  • Once you've weeded everything, you have to turn the soil over. Clods of dirt freeze during the winter. So if you don't dig thoroughly in the fall, it'll be much harder to do later.
  • Tidying everything up doesn't take all that long, but cleaning your tools before the winter does.
All in all, it can easily take a week. Even for a small backyard garden.

And how does that work in the Planty Garden?

I thought you'd never ask 😉 

In a Planty Garden, you're done in no time. That's thanks to the garden boxes and MM-Mix. They make all the difference.

Check it out:
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Our Planty Garden around November 20
So. It's been cold for weeks and growth has pretty much stopped. Most of the vegetable patches have been harvested. The remaining plants are decaying or bolting. Even the sunflowers are just barely hanging on.

Let's roll up our sleeves and get to it.
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Sunflowers are just barely hanging in there

1. Harvest what you can still harvest

You'll be surprised by how much you can still get out of your garden box. 
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The results of my 'clean up' harvest round

2. Remove old, bolted, sad-looking, or stunted plants

Easy. Because the MM-Mix keeps the root balls small. If you want to, use a garden claw - like our MM-harkje - or trowel. Knock off any clinging soil mix.
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A small but healthy root ball
Break the sunflower stalks and remove the root balls. Check if there are any seeds left in the flower heads and leave them for the birds. 
Laat uitgebloeide zonnebloemen nog even liggen: vogels zijn dol op de zaden.
Birds love sunflower seeds

3. Remove windblown weeds and unwanted seedlings

With the MM-Mix, this is no trouble at all.
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Easily rake away weeds

4. Collect any containers, pots, or labels lying around

Clean them up so they're ready for next year.
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MM-Plantlabels are good for years to come
That's it. You're done.

Do you empty out your garden boxes completely?

Not at all. For starters, you leave the MM-Mix in there. It will last for years.

Also, some vegetables can handle cold weather, even severe frost.

Let's have a look at what's still growing:

Lamb's lettuce
These compact plants are great for salad.
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Lamb's lettuce
Winter purslane
I eat this all the time. In a smoothie, salad, or with mashed potatoes in a Dutch 'mash pot'.

If you cut off the leaves and leave the rest of the plant, they'll grow back on their own. They don't mind the cold:
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Winter purslane after a night of frost
Dino kale (cavolo nero)

Survives the harshest winters. Pick the large leaves and leave the small ones: they'll grow again in the spring.  
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A dino kale with nearly all it's leaves picked
Garlic
Plant the cloves from September to November. The new cloves can be harvested next year and the green stems are ready to eat earlier:
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Garlic just coming up in the winter garden
Winter pea
The young shoots and leaves should be harvested in winter: they taste like peas and are great in a stir fry. The plants continue to grow in spring and will flower quickly. So harvest the tastiest parts early on.
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Winter pea shoots: fresh greens in winter
Chives and Parsley
Chives are perennials. When frost hits, everything above the ground dies, but the plants grow again in spring.

Parsley is biennial. The leaves last a little longer than chives do. The plants will start growing again in the spring. They'll flower quickly: best remove them then.
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The last parsley harvest before winter
Chard and arugola
Leave the heart of of the plants in their patch: if the winter is mild, you can harvest next spring.
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Rainbow chard: in mild weather, it'll keep growing
Endive
Endives can withstand the cold but are sensitive to moisture. Too wet, and they'll get mildewy.
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Mash pot with endive: yum
Spinach
Even the smallest spinach plants should start to grow again in spring.
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Spinach in winter: small but resilient
Winter lettuce
This lettuce is cold-resistant but will stop growing in winter. Keep them in their patch and watch them grow again in spring.
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Winter lettuce will keep growing in spring
Beets
Beets can be left to rest peacefully. The colder it gets, the sweeter the taste.
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Carrots
For carrots the same applies: they stay better in your container than in the fridge.

But beware: if there are already larvae of the carrot fly in the carrot, they can survive the winter. So to avoid them the next year, you should harvest the carrots before the new year.
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Wortels kun je ook lang laten staan

Covering up helps

For the most part, you won't see much growth in your garden box in the winter.

They'll do better if you cover them with a garden fleece like the MM-Muts. It not only protects your plants from heavy rain, snow, and the worst of the cold, but birds too.

Sarah made a fun little video:

And the soil mix in your garden boxes? What do you do with that?

Nothing. I just leave it as is. You never have to replace it.

If it gets too compact over the winter months, I top it off with a bag of MM-Mix in the spring. Then I add some fresh nutrients, mix everything together, and my garden boxes are ready to sow once again.

To sum it up

So, now you know everything about preparing a Planty Garden for the winter. 

In a nutshell:
  • harvest as much as possible
  • remove old plants
  • remove weeds
  • tidy up 
Not much to it, is there?

Even better: if you don't feel like doing any of this, you don't have to. You can wait till spring and do your prep round then. It might be a little more work, nothing major.

But: tidy garden boxes do look nice, don't they? 
Makkelijke Moestuinbakken: klaar voor de winter
Cleaned up garden boxes ready for winter
Have in your Planty Garden 🙂
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