Categories
greenandgrowing.org

How to Prepare Your Garden for Winter Organically

If you’re like most gardeners, the approaching cold weather is bittersweet. The cooler weather is a relief from the heat, but it also means you have to put your garden to bed. But instead of lamenting the fact that there are no more tomatoes to can or peas to shell, why not concentrate on learning to prepare your garden for winter?

And if you’re into organic gardening, you’ll also find some tips that will help ensure that you nourish your garden even more for the spring planting.

Why Should You Prepare Your Garden for Winter?

Summer gardening is a beast, isn’t it? Making sure your plants get enough water to produce those delicious fruits and vegetables is almost a full-time job in some climates. And the pests and diseases that thrive in the hot summer months are no laughing matter.

That’s why some people close up their garden after the summer harvest and don’t think about it again until spring.

But that’s a mistake.

When you don’t properly prepare your garden for winter, you will have a few unwanted surprises in the spring. For instance, leaving withered and dead plants in your garden over the winter can spread disease because the cold doesn’t kill all fungus. Also, unless you take some precautions, you will have to fight even more weeds come spring. Finally, pests can hide underneath the garden debris and will surprise attack you in the spring. But by removing all the debris, you won’t give them a place to hide.

How to Prepare Your Garden for Winter

By now, you understand the importance of learning how to prepare your garden for winter, especially when organic gardening. After all, the last thing you want to do is fight diseases, pests, and weeds!

If you’re ready to put your garden to bed until spring, here are the 10 things you should do right now.

1. Take the last harvest

Your first step is to harvest anything left in your garden. Many people leave tomato plants until the last minute to give tomatoes time to ripen on the vine. They will also ripen on your countertop!

If you live in the South, your eggplants will also probably continue to produce until fall, so you can wait to pull those out until you are ready to prepare your garden for winter.

2. Clean things up

After you’ve gathered all of the vegetables left on the plants, it’s time to pull the plants out of the ground. Most of the plants will be withered and dying because cool weather is setting in. Don’t be tempted to leave plants in your garden because if a late blight sets in, it can carry over until spring.

An exception to that rule is plants with deep roots that are difficult to pull like cabbage or broccoli. Some gardeners prefer to leave the roots in the ground until spring because they are typically easier to pull then.

3. Take a trip to the compost pile

Once you’ve gathered the garden debris and pulled up the old plants, it’s time to put them in the compost pile. Your compost will cook over the winter and provide you with a nutrient-rich soil for your spring garden.

If the old plants have a disease or look sickly, throw them in the trash instead of the compost pile so you don’t risk adding fungus or other diseases to your spring garden. Some diseases can overwinter. And you should never put old tomato plants in the compost pile — it’s too risky!

4. Leave them behind

Some plants love the cold weather and you can leave them in the ground to continue to produce. For instance, Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, spinach, and broccoli may survive the winter months provided that you top-dress them with mulch. And garlic is meant to grow through the cold winter months and you will harvest it in the summer.

5. See where you’re at

The soil is the lifeblood of your garden, and if it doesn’t contain the right mixture of nutrients, your plants aren’t likely to thrive. When you prepare your garden for winter, it’s the ideal time to test your soil to determine what you should add to it.

Start by digging down about 6 inches in your garden soil in 5 to 6 different areas. Mix the soil and eliminate all the rocks and other debris from it.

Next, you can either have your soil tested by your local cooperative extension service or test it yourself. If you want to send it off, use this list to find the office for your state. If you want to test the soil yourself, you can use products like the Rapidtest electronic soil tester.

6. Make things right

Once you’ve tested your soil, it’s time to amend it to ensure your spring garden will be a success. Depending on what your test results show you, you will add amendments to your soil to bring it into balance.

For instance, if your soil is low in nitrogen, you can add fish emulsion or blood meal. There are many methods you can use to amend your soil to prepare it for the spring.

7. Cover things up

Now that you’ve amended your soil, it’s time to add a layer of compost to your garden bed. To do so, make sure you’ve pulled all the weeds and then push aside the mulch that covers the soil. Then, add a 1 to 2-inch layer of compost over the entire bed.

After adding the compost, you need to cover the soil for the winter. The goal is to cover your soil so enough that you can’t see it. If you can see it, you’re not protecting it. You can cover your soil in two ways.

Mulch it

Your first option is to put a layer of mulch on the top of your soil. You can use old hay, grass clippings, or store-bought mulch. If you’re organic gardening, make sure the much you use is free of pesticides.

Don’t forget that the cold winter months kill off a lot of pests and diseases. That’s why you shouldn’t mulch the garden bed too deeply. If you do, it could prevent the soil from freezing and killing off anything you want to survive.

Grow it

Your other option is to plant a cover crop in your garden. This option is ideal for a variety of reasons. First, planting a cover crop will protect your soil the same way mulch does. But by planting a cover crop, you can also add important nutrients to your garden to ensure it’s in top form for the spring.

For instance, if you plant legumes, the crop will add nitrogen to your garden soil. On the other hand, if you have too much nitrogen in your soil, plant a nutrient scavenging plant such as wheat, rye, barley, and triticale to help lessen it.

Make sure that the cover crop you use is cold-hardy and will grow throughout the winter. Here’s a great guide to cover crops. If you want to continue to grow something in your garden in addition to learning how to prepare your garden for winter, here’s a list of the best plants that grow during the winter.

8. Prepare your tools

No gardener is worth their salt without the proper tools. Instead of buying new garden tools every year, it makes much more sense to take care of the ones you already have. When you have time to prepare your garden for winter, it’s a great time to get your garden tools for the next season.

Start by wiping away any dirt and debris from your tools. If any of your tools have rust on them, use some sandpaper to clean it off. Then, musing a mill file, sharpen your tools so they will be ready to work for you once you begin planting the spring garden.

You can also lightly coat your garden tools with machine oil to help preserve them for another season. This will seal the metal, not allowing oxygen in, which keeps them working longer. Finally, replace any garden tools that are worn out or broken.

9. Think about next year

Now that you have taken the steps to prepare your garden for winter, it’s time to sit back and think about the last growing season. What did you do right, and what can you improve on? For instance, if you didn’t practice crop rotation, especially when organic gardening, you might put it into practice some spring.

Here are some other things you can think about to help your spring garden grow even better than your summer or fall garden.

Did they grow?

Hopefully, you kept a journal of all the varieties you planted and how they did. It’s important to know which plants thrive in your environment and which ones don’t. Go through your plant journal now and make a note of every species that did not do well. You probably shouldn’t plant that variety again next year.

On the other hand, be sure to make a note of the plants that did thrive so you can plant them again next year. You can also plant different types of these plants to extend your growing season. For instance, if a cherry tomato plant gave you a great harvest, think about planting cherry tomatoes with an earlier and later harvest date next year so you enjoy ripe tomatoes for a longer period.

Did they go?

Make careful notes of your organic gardening pest control methods as well. You may think you will remember them next year, but what if you don’t? Did your mixture of soap and water get rid of the aphid infestation, or did you have to purchase an insecticidal soap? Or maybe you released a jar of ladybugs to rid your plants of the pests.

Write down all of the methods that worked in your garden so you will have a go-to-guide next year.

Get Ready to Prepare Your Garden for Winter with Video

Even though you’ve read this article, sometimes watching a video on the topic can give you additional insight. Watch this quick video that shows you step-by-step how to prepare your garden for winter when using the no-till gardening method.

Are You Ready to Prepare Your Garden for Winter?

Closing down a garden for the season can be sad, but think of it this way: spring — and all those spring vegetables — is just around the corner. When you prepare your garden for winter the right way, your spring garden will be healthier and able to produce even more produce for you and your family.

Do you have a special way to prepare your garden for winter that we haven’t mentioned? If so, please tell us about it in the comment below. Doing so may help other readers have a better spring garden!

Categories
greenandgrowing.org

Organic Halloween Candy: Ideas for Natural and Safe Treats

Moms today are more concerned than ever about what they feed their kids, which is why you’re looking into organic Halloween candy. Right?

Now, that’s not to say that moms of the past didn’t care about the health of their children. We just know more now. And we know that organic foods keep our kids safe from dangerous chemicals.

It’s a well known fact that kids love Halloween. I mean, spooky costumes and candy galore. What’s not to love? But smart moms want healthy Halloween treats for their little ghosts and ghouls.

If you’re wondering what organic Halloween candy is available this year, we’ve got you covered.

Whether you want something that you can order online or would rather get busy in the kitchen, we’ve got something for you.

So sit back and take a look at our list of healthy Halloween treats that your kids will love sinking their fangs into. These healthy snacks are sure to bring a smile to their faces.

Organic Halloween Candy You Can Buy

Moms today are busy. Not everyone can spend their days in the kitchen baking away for hours at a time. We are busy!

If you’re looking for candy to send to school for a class party or hand out during trick-or-treat, homemade goodies aren’t always an option.

But have no fear. There are plenty of choices for those who want organic Halloween candy that comes pre-packaged and ready to go.

Even if your local grocery store doesn’t have anything in stock, there are plenty of organic candies that you can order online.

Another perk of ordering online is that all you have to do is click a button and it will show up at your door. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Here are just a few of the most popular organic Halloween candy options available this year. These treats are as yummy as they are healthy, so both kids and moms will be delighted.

Organic Candy Corn

YumEarth is a leader in healthy treats, and when it comes to organic Halloween candy, they do not disappoint.

The first offering from YumEarth on our list is a Halloween staple. Their organic Candy Corn is just what you need to get your kids (and yourself) into the spirit of Halloween.

Granted, candy corn gets a bad rap these days. But let’s face it, Halloween just isn’t Halloween without it.

Candy corn is perfect for handing out on trick-or-treat. It’s great for a holiday-themed treat around the house too. So when you’re shopping for organic Halloween candy, make sure this is on your list.

Organic Halloween Lollipops

Candy corn isn’t the only organic Halloween candy From YumEarth. They also have organic lollipops available in spooky themes.

If you’re looking for vegan Halloween candy that will make your kids howl with joy, then these are just what you need in your life.

These lollipops are also free of allergens, GMOs, gluten, and artificial dyes.

The flavors of these lollipops have fun names too, such as strawberry smash, very very cherry, mango tango, and wet face watermelon.

Since these lollipops are individually wrapped, they are perfect for trick-or-treating and class parties. Because they are allergen-free (no shellfish, nuts, or eggs), they are a safe treat to send into your child’s classroom.

Black Cat Hairball Cotton Candy

Do your kids want something with more of a gross factor than candy corn or lollipops? No worries. There’s organic Halloween candy that will disgust even the little boys in your house.

If you need to up the ante and find something with a bit more yuck for Halloween, it’s easier to do than you might think. Check out this Black Cat Hairball Cotton Candy from Fun Express.

All the sugary goodness of cotton candy with a theme that will make you say, “Ewww, gross.” What more could a kid ask for on Halloween, right?

While these might look gross, the sour blue raspberry flavor is delicious and sure to make your children squeal with delight.

Halloween Bunny Grahams

For moms who feel it’s important to feed their children organic foods, Annies is a household name.

Although this isn’t an organic Halloween candy per se, it earns a place on this list because it’s a tasty treat with a Halloween theme.

Annie’s Bunny Grahams are a favorite with kids all year long. However, the Halloween version adds a twist by featuring bunnies that are orange and black.

These are a healthy snack because they are made with organic wheat flour, have no GMOs, and there is no high-fructose corn syrup in them either.

These Halloween Bunny Grahams may be cute but they will still get you into the spirit of this spooky holiday.

Halloween Fruit Pops

If you want something a little bit healthier than regular organic Halloween candy, YumEarth has another great option that is sure to be just right for you.

These organic Halloween Fruit Pops will make your kids happy without all the junk you get in regular treats.

They are another great pick for trick-or-treating and classroom parties because they are completely free of allergens. They’re also individually wrapped.

In addition, they’re a healthy choice for the adults in your house too. Moms and dads will both love snacking on these. You really can’t go wrong with these organic Halloween Fruit Pops.

Full-Size Chocolate Bars

Let’s be honest, it isn’t Halloween without the chocolate. It just isn’t. But thankfully, you don’t have to skip chocolate when you are looking for organic Halloween candy.

If you are old-fashioned and prefer to hand out full-size candy bars for trick-or-treating, these organic chocolate bars from Hu are right up your alley.

You can get these candy bars in sampler packs that feature eight different flavors: almond butter and puffed quinoa, cashew butter and vanilla bean, hazelnut butter, salty, simple, crunchy mint, crunchy banana, and vanilla crunch.

Organic Dark Chocolate Snack Size

If you prefer to limit how much organic Halloween candy your little ones eat by sticking to snack-sized candy, there are smaller chocolates too.

These snack-sized organic dark chocolate bars from NibMore are the perfect Halloween treat.

You can get them in six different flavors, including original, mint, extreme, sea salt, tart cherry, and wild Maine blueberry.

These little vegan treats are gluten-free and non-GMO. So you can feel good about the candy you give your kids this year.

DIY Organic Halloween Snacks

If you prefer to make your organic Halloween treats yourself rather than buy them in a store, there are a lot of options for you.

Baking organic goodies is often as simple as following whatever recipe you happen to find and using organic ingredients.

However, we wouldn’t feel like we were done if we didn’t give you at least a few recipes that are sure to spice up your Halloween with sweet treats.

Vegan Caramel Sauce

Granted, this recipe for Vegan Caramel Sauce isn’t a dessert all on its own. But it can turn a bowl of ice cream into something incredible.

Even something as healthy as an apple becomes a decadent treat when it is smothered in this sweet, sticky caramel goodness. And it’s healthy!

No, really! It actually is!

This caramel sauce only uses three ingredients: canned coconut milk, pitted dates, and a dash of sea salt. It’s also ridiculously easy to make.

Every mom needs this recipe in their life. What better way to get your kids to enjoy a healthy snack?

Sticky Sweet Popcorn Balls

Another Halloween staple is popcorn balls. We all remember this delicious fall treat.

This recipe for Sticky Sweet Popcorn Balls is sure to bring back memories of your childhood. And at the same time, your kids will get to make Halloween memories of their own.

One of the best parts of popcorn balls is the fun of making them. Although it can get a bit messy, it’s totally worth it in this case. Sticky fingers are what will make your kids remember the experience.

These organic popcorn balls are easier to make than you might think. You won’t even need a candy thermometer.

Nut Butter Cups

Reese’s peanut butter cups are another Halloween tradition. Here’s a recipe for organic Nut Butter Cups that will give you all of the deliciousness with none of the chemicals.

If you’re craving an organic alternative to storebought peanut butter cups, you simply must give this recipe a try.

Instead of peanut butter, this recipe uses organic almond butter, which makes it compatible with a paleo diet.

A decadent dessert full of chocolatey goodness but with none of added the guilt. What more could you ask for? Especially when your kids love it as much as you do.

Organic Halloween Are Easier than Ever

With more and more parents waking up to the hidden dangers our food can present, organic foods are becoming easier to find.

Parents can actually buy organic Halloween candy in stores these days, something that was practically unheard of not that long ago.

There are also a ton of great organic recipes that you can cook up in your own kitchen, which means you have complete control over what ingredients go into your treats.

So get out there and make this Halloween the best ever, and do it without the scary food additives you don’t want your family sinking their fangs into.