Looking for garden projects to do during the slower time of the gardening season? I get so excited about next season’s garden in the fall and winter. There is so much to learn and so many ways to think and prepare for next growing season.
In this episode of the Beginner’s Garden Podcast, I talk about 11 garden projects — several DIY! — you can do in the off-season. Click to listen or continue reading below.
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Why Fall and Winter are Perfect for Garden Projects
When we think about gardening, we usually think of the spring. Most people tackle garden projects in the spring because of the excitement the spring garden brings, but there is great benefit to working on some of them now.
- You have more time, with fewer garden upkeep tasks.
- In most places, we have nicer weather and it’s a way to enjoy the outdoors.
- You’re in less of a rush than in the spring.
- It’s budget-friendly because you have fewer gardening costs in the fall, which spreads out the investment of gardening.
- It combats the end-of-summer blues because it gives you something to look forward to!
Have I convinced you yet? Maybe you already know which garden projects you want to start because you’ve been putting them off all season. But if not, let these ideas get your mind going.
11 tasks that you can do this fall and winter to get ready for next year’s spring garden:
The biggest drawback to raised beds is the cost, but I’ve been able to slowly add one or two at a time over the years so it’s not such an expense at one time. The fall is a great time to be able to build and prepare new raised beds.
Here’s another benefit to adding raised garden beds in the off-season: If you prepare the bed in the fall, you have more options of organic material that you can add to your soil. Before adding any soil, you can add weeds that haven’t yet gone to seed or uncomposted compost. These raw materials have time to break down over the winter and supply nutrients for your crops.
You can read more about raised bed gardening mistakes, transitioning to raised beds, or raised bed soil options in these earlier posts. And if you want a step-by-step tutorial on a DIY raised bed, check out this option for building your own raised bed using an old fence.
Vertical Gardening Trellis
Trellises are great garden projects to start in the fall. You have plenty of time so there’s no rushing or cutting corners. And since most trellises will last you many seasons, you want to take your time. Here some ideas:
My A-frame trellis has made it through 6 seasons so far and is by far the favorite structure in my garden. I mostly grow pole beans on it, but as with any vertical structure, you could grow other crops as well. Get my free A-frame trellis plans here: how to build an a-frame trellis.
Second to my A-frame trellis, I love my arch trellises. I use them for cucumbers, grapes, pumpkins, and pole beans. These are especially beautiful and space-saving when you stretch them from one raised bed to another.
Fall is also a good time to build your heavy-duty tomato cages. You can read how I built heavy-duty tomato cages out of concrete reinforcing wire here.
If you want a more attractive look with an option for easy storage over the winter, check out Joe Lamp’l’s welded wire cages.
You may already have a compost bin, but if you don’t or if you’re ready to make a change in your system, the off-season is the perfect time to make any changes. Need inspiration? These compost bin ideas can get your mind dreaming about options that would work best in your garden.
Build a compost sifter
One thing I’ve noticed when I get ready to use my compost, is the bigger chunks that remain even if it is well composted. Especially if I’m using compost and plan to plant seeds soon after, I want a fine tilth that won’t interfere with my young plants. Essentially a wooden frame with a screen, a compost sifter can help separate those larger chunks from the finer compost I’m needing. Here is an excellent tutorial on how to build a compost sifter.
Have you ever wanted to try worm composting? I talked to Emily Louba, the Crazy Worm Lady, last year and she shared how to get started with vermicomposting. I’m realizing more and more how worm castings would benefit my organic my garden as well as helping with pest control. Starting a vermicomposting bin inside would be a great project for the winter.
Prepare your in-ground garden bed
If you want to start a new garden in the ground, you could try to wait for spring and till it up. But, there are some risks you take when you wait for the spring. If the soil is too wet, you have to wait longer than you’d prefer to get your ideal crops in the ground. If you don’t want to take that risk, or if you’re like me and prefer not to till your soil, I recommend starting to prepare your new garden plot in the fall.
The fall before my first garden, I placed layers of newspaper and wood chips over the grass to smother the weeds and prepare the ground for the next year. I still do this in areas I need to clear the weeds and prepare the soil.
Secure natural sources of mulch
Mulch provides so many benefits to your garden. If you obtain your mulch in the fall, it will be ready when you need it in the spring. I prefer wood chips, which I either source from my local lumber mill or have delivered from a local tree service. Because our property is full of pine trees, I rake up fallen pine needles to place on garden pathways. If you have deciduous trees, collect fallen leaves to have ready to add to the garden in the spring. Chopping them up before bagging, using a lawnmower, will make them easier to apply in the spring.
Cold frames or floating row covers
Fall is the perfect time of year to explore extending your growing season with cold frames or floating row covers.
I built floating row covers last year as a fall project. I used them to protect my fall crops from the cold, and I used them again in the spring to protect my crops from cold snaps. They were also helpful to protect my brassicas from cabbage worms.
Experimenting and building these in the fall was perfect because I had the time. If I had waited until the spring, I would have rushed and cut corners in some other areas.
I haven’t tried cold frames because my growing season is so long, but you might find them helpful to extend your season into the winter and to get an early start in the spring. Learn how to garden with a cold frame here.
Grow lights + Indoor Seed Starting Setup
Fall is a great time to start or make changes to your seed starting setup. Maybe you could look into purchasing your first grow lights or expanding on what you already have. Again, it is much better to set this up now rather than waiting for the last minute.
Tip: Keep your eye out for Black Friday deals. I purchased my grow light for almost half of its regular price this way. Each year I let my email subscribers know of any great Black Friday and Prime Day deals. Click here to sign up.
This may be a little more difficult, but if you have a DIY-er in your family, a potting bench is a great garden project to build in the fall. I love having a potting bench under my patio to transplant seedlings and house some of my garden tools.
If you ever plan on having chickens, now is a great time to build their coop. You usually want to buy chicks in the early spring as it is getting warm. When they’re ready to go outside, you will want to have their home ready for them.
Garden Projects for Fall and Winter
These 11 projects to work on now for next season will help prepare you for the best start in the spring. Keep working for your garden while the tasks in your garden are lighter.
Which of these projects would you like to try? Can you think of any to add to my list?
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