Prepare your vegetable garden for winter to ensure that your soil is healthy and ready for new crops when spring rolls around.
Start by removing all debris from the vegetable garden. Remove tomato plants, potato vines, cucumber vines, which won't come back next year. Do not remove perennial vegetables such as rhubarb and asparagus, or perennial herbs such as lavender, oregano and thyme; just cut down their stalks to ready them for early spring growth.
Plant a cover crop. Cover crops such as clover can grow through the winter. You turn them under when you prepare the soil in early spring. This enriches the soil, making an organic fertilizer. A cover crop also deters weeds from establishing in garden beds.
Stake root vegetables that are still growing so that you can find them in case of heavy snowfall. You can continue to harvest carrots all through the winter -- if you can find them.
Shelter brussels sprouts, kale and other veggies that appreciate a light frost to give them a little extra warmth and extend your growing season. Use row cover fabric stretched over wire hoops to make an easy and effective cloche. Cover areas that are not planted with cover crops with a layer of partially or fully decomposed compost and mulch. Compost decomposes and becomes rich soil; mulch helps prevent erosion and keeps the soil warm.
Bring all your terra cotta, plastic and porcelain containers indoors or into sheltered areas such as garages and sheds so that freezing temperatures do not cause them to crack.
Determine how you will arrange the vegetable garden for the coming year. Winter is the best time to evaluate your successes and make a plan of action addressing the vegetable garden's shortcomings. Plan any construction projects now so that you can implement them as soon as temperatures begin to warm, before the next planting season begins.
If you follow these easy steps, your vegetable garden will be ready to grow when the snow melts.