Should Raised Beds Be Covered In Winter?


lettuce covered with fleece

Gardeners are always worried about their raised beds during the wintertime. With the harsh and chilly winds, keeping the raised beds in good condition is quite difficult. But most of the home gardeners do not know what will protect their raised beds in winter. Many people recommend covering the raised beds in winters and claim it does wonder.

Raised beds can benefit from being covered in winter. This protects the soil from the constant battering of the weather allows soil microbes to continue to work throughout winter and prepare it enough come springtime. It also prevents weeds from growing in your already prepared beds.

In the next few sections, we will be talking about things you can do as a gardener before covering up the beds, as well as the benefits of doing so, so do read on!

What to do Before Covering the Raised Beds in Winter

garden covered in snow

Raised bed gardening is often done in areas with poor soil quality, thus creating garden beds and filling them with nutrient-rich soil. To explain more on the process of raised garden beds, I have written an article on just what raised bed gardening is. It covers information about benefits to raised bed gardening, bed designs, just how many beds you can look into, and what plants can be grown in said setup.

With this, however, come winter, your plants may be exposed to the harsh and winter climate. Due to that, look into the following steps you can do to save your soil and plants in their raised garden beds come winter.

1.    Clean up Finished Plants during winter in your raised garden beds

Old plants give the raised beds an untidy look. But this is not the only reason why you should clean them up before covering the raised beds. It is noted that old and finished plants can be the reason for diseases and fungus. On top of that, these dying plants are also an open invitation for many insects.

Not cleaning these plants can lead up to a horrible pest attack.

Well, during winter, if these plants are not covered, many insects may feed on them. These insects also lay their eggs on your raised beds and start growing their colony there. This situation should be avoided because insects in soil are harder to get rid of. But do not there the dead plants away. Bury then deep in your raised beds for extra nutrients.

2.    Clean up the Invasive Weeds in your raised garden bed before covering them

digging weeds with a garden hoe

Just like old plants, weed is not good for your little garden, but different reasons. Weed feed from the same soil hence absorbs most of the nutrients. This results in several deficiencies in your new crop, which no one wants.

So, you clean up the weed and bury them in the raised beds? No. Unlike finished plants, weeds are alive (obviously). And it can regrow if buried deep inside. It is also not recommended to add it to the compost pile for the same reason. So, what to do with the Invasive Weed? Throw it away in the garbage or burn it up during a bonfire.

3.    Prepare Soil of your raised garden bed before covering them up for winter

People think that preparing the soil for spring should be done in spring. But preparing soil and adding nutrients in the wintertime is far better than doing it in the planting season. This means manure to the soil and adds compost. You can also add any other nutrients if you want.

Adding nutrients beforehand is important because it lets the ingredients break down into the soil.

The benefit of this is then when the spring season comes; you do not have to start from point zero. The raised bed would be fertile instead of having dried-out soil. At this point, you can cover the raised beds if you want. Or you can follow more steps to gain more benefits.

4.     Covering the raised garden beds for winter

Now you have done every possible thing to enhance the quality of your soil. It is time to cover the soil to lose any of those nutrients and stay healthy.

There are many covers that you can use to protect the raised beds in winter. You can either use something natural, for example, mulch. Or get plastic covers. The choice is up to you because every item has its separate benefits.

Protect Raised Beds in Winter – Planting Cover Crop

sunflower in grasses

No, the cover crop does not mean covering the crop. Many plants are named “cover crops,” which are planted in the fall and winter seasons.

What are cover crops

Cover crops are important plants that you plan to cover the earth. They are planted to better the soil quality and are often added in as a natural way to control pests and enhance mycorrhizal fungi in the soil. To aid you with understanding the importance of them, I have written an article on the ultimate guide to cover crops. They cover lists on cover crops you can look into, as well as a video of using them as green manure all around the garden.

Benefits to cover crops

When raised beds are not taking care of in winter, the soil becomes infertile. Many gardeners face a common problem in spring is soil erosion, wherein the topsoil is wearing away.

Many gardeners know that the topsoil is enriched with most nutrients, and without healthy topsoil, growing healthy plants is not possible. Planting cover crops can help with this problem.

Cover crops also increase the percentage of organic matter in the soil.

It can retain a suitable water level in the soil. Some crops also add nitrogen to the soil and hence make soil overall better.

Examples of cover crops to plant for winter on raised garden beds

It is always recommended to contact your local seed provider for a cover crop. Because some cover crops might not be suitable for your environment. Nonetheless, here are some of the common examples of cover crops.

Cover cropsThe benefit of the cover crop
Buckwheat It is a fast-growing cover crop that saves soil from erosion. It also prevents weed growth.
Winter Rye This crop is also called cereal rye. Just like buckwheat, it prevents weed. It also loosens up compact soil.
Hairy Vetch For gardeners living in the North, this crop might be the best. It can without harsh climate and add nitrogen in the soil.
CloverThis easily available crop increases the percentage of nitrogen in the soil. It can also make the soil more fertile for spring planting.

Next, let us think about the consideration of using cover crops in winter.

Considerations of cover crops when planted on raised garden beds for winter

A cover crop is all-natural which means it will not have any side effects, right? Wrong. The first disadvantage is that you would have to give extra time to the crop during winter. The second con that many people have noticed is pests being present.

But if you still choose to use a cover crop, add netting over the raised beds. It will protect the crop and soil from insects.

Protecting Raised Beds with Natural Cover – Use Mulch

Whether it is summer or winter, mulching has the same benefits. Just like cover crops, mulching in winter can also save the soil from erosion. It can also prevent water loss in soil. And if you are about weed growing in your raised beds, mulching will solve that issue as well. But other than that, winter mulching has other benefits too. Some plants can not survive cold weather. This is why it is recommended not to plant in cold soil.

Adding a thin layer of mulch will regulate the temperature of the soil, making it easier to plant new crops in spring right away.

Many gardeners like to plant root vegetables in winter. The thick layer of mulch will protect those plants from freezing too. And it will enhance the lifespan and quality of the root vegetables. The best part is when the spring season will arrive, mulch would have broken down. This will work really in now nutrients for your new vegetables.

Artificial Cover for Raised Beds in Winters – Use Black Plastic

grass in compost bin

Black plastic sheets are being used for more than half a century because of their affordability.

It is also the most popular among other colors since it better prevents the light from passing. It is great in warming the soil in winter. Additionally, it has several benefits that you can get at a low cost.

Benefits of using black plastic to cover garden beds in winter

Black polythene sheets warm the soil better. This is great for the growth of vegetables that love warmness, such as tomatoes and pumpkins.

The presence of the sheet allows high levels of carbon dioxide to build up under it.

This accelerates plant growth by potentially extending the growing season. You can also use a black plastic sheet when the raised bed has plants. It reduces direct contact with the soil. And saves the plants from the diseases caused by watering and decreases chances of erosion.

Considerations for using black plastic to cover up gardens in winter

But just like any other product, the black sheet also has its cons.

  • It is not an environment-friendly option and increases the carbon footprint. Getting rid of black plastic after winter is over can be quite tiresome.
  • If you do not live in a city with a really harsh winter then do not use it, as black plastic can sometimes overheat the soil.

Due to the material, it also can get scorching itself, which makes watering the plants difficult.

FAQs

Conclusion on should raised gardening beds be covered in winter?

Does this mean that covering the raised beds in winter is enough? No. There are many other steps that a gardener should follow before covering the bed. Covering the bed is a good start, but you can not get all the benefits unless you follow other steps.

Incorporating these tips and tricks in the winter can keep the raised beds healthy. And when you start planting in the spring and summer again, the crop will be better than last year.

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Tony O'Neill

I am Tony O'Neill, A full-time firefighter, and professional gardener. I have spent most of my life gardening. From the age of 7 until the present day at 46. My goal is to use my love and knowledge of gardening to support you and to simplify the gardening process so you are more productive

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