The Q&A Archives: Winter Ground Cover

Question: I have a plot in a community garden in Philadelphia. With the exception of a few perennials, there are no plants in the garden during the late fall and winter. Once I've "closed down" the garden for the season, what plant (ground cover? grass?) can I put in to improve the soil until I plant again next spring?

Answer: Some gardeners, especially those with large gardens, will plant a cover crop of annual rye or the like to protect the soil during the winter; this is then dug in when spring comes. This can be a problem however if you grow late season veggies because it will soon be too late to start the cover crop. Another method is to mulch heavily with an organic mulch such as straw or chopped leaves (topped with a layer of shredded bark to keep them from blowing away) or some similar combination of materials and then dig those under next spring. This can also help keep down those early spring weeds.

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