Should Raised Beds Be Covered In Winter? Proven Tips

Gardening aficionados frequently worry about the wellbeing of their raised beds during the harsh cold of winter. The frigid winds can make it difficult to keep these beds in good condition. However, many home gardeners are unsure how to protect their raised beds from winter’s harsh conditions. Common advice indicates that covering the raised beds throughout the winter season can be extremely advantageous.

Raised beds can benefit from being covered in winter. This protects the soil from the constant weather battering, allowing 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 discuss things you can do as a gardener before covering up the beds and the benefits of doing so, so read on!

What to do Before Covering the Raised Beds in Winter

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 about the process of raising garden beds, I have written an article on what raised bed gardening is.

It covers the benefits of raised bed gardening, bed designs, just how many beds you can look into, and what plants can be grown in said setup.

lettuce covered with fleece

With this, however, come winter, your plants may be exposed to the harsh 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 you should clean them before covering the raised beds. It is noted that old and finished plants can be the reason for diseases and fungi. 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.

If these plants are not covered during winter, 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 them 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

Like old plants, weed is not good for your little garden for different reasons. Weed feed from the same soil and hence absorb 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 the 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 into the soil.

This benefit is 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 everything possible to enhance your soil’s quality. It is time to cover the soil to lose nutrients and stay healthy.

You can use many covers 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” in the fall and winter.

What are cover crops?

Cover crops are important plants that you plan to cover the earth. They are planted to improve soil quality and are often added in as a natural way to control pests and enhance mycorrhizal fungi.

To aid you with understanding the importance of them, I have written an article on the ultimate guide to cover crops. They cover lists of cover crops you can look into and a video of using them as green manure all around the garden.

Benefits to cover crops

The soil becomes infertile when raised beds are not cared for in winter. Many gardeners face a common problem in spring soil erosion, wherein the topsoil is fading.

Many gardeners know that the topsoil is enriched with the most nutrients; 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, improving the soil overall.

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 climates and add nitrogen to 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, so it will not have any side effects. 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 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. 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 also solve that issue.

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 arrives, mulch will have broken down. This will work really in new nutrients for your fresh vegetables.

Artificial Cover for Raised Beds in Winters – Use Black Plastic

grass in compost bin

Black plastic sheets have been used for over 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 for warming the soil in winter. Additionally, it has several benefits 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 growing 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 use a black plastic sheet when the raised bed has plants. It reduces direct contact with the soil. And saves the plants from diseases caused by watering and decreases the chances of erosion.

Considerations for using black plastic to cover up gardens in winter

But like any other product, the black sheet also has 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 harsh winter, 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 on Should Raised Beds Be Covered In Winter? Proven Tips

Do I have to change the soil in my raised beds every year?
No, you do not need to change the soil of your raised garden bed yearly. It is true that the soil in the raised beds breaks down over time and needs to be replaced or replenished with compost and nutrients. However, changing them yearly is unnecessary as they may move and affect plant roots.

Is it also essential to cover raised beds during heavy rain?
Yes, it is imperative to cover raised garden beds during heavy rains. Whether it is winter rain or summer rain, make sure that your raised garden beds are covered to stop the nutrients from draining to the bottom of the bed. It will also prevent crushing the smaller plants from heavy rains.

Can I start removing the cover in spring and planting in the raised beds right away?
Yes, you can start planting right away in your raised garden bed. Consider adding mulch before spring, as the mulch would have been mixed in the soil by spring, giving your plants a much-appreciated boost. You can harvest the cover crop and fluff the soil and start planting.

How do you winterize your garden beds?
Winterizing garden beds ensures that your garden bed will make your plants thrive come springtime. Consider using this time to clean out the weeds, dig up your tender plants, keep them in the dark, cold space, and replant them in spring. Boost your soil, too, this time by adding mulch.

What can you cover your raised garden beds with during winter?
You can cover your garden beds with either cardboard or black plastic during wintertime. Even old carpets can be utilized. Keep this all in place during the wintertime and remove them come spring, as this will help eradicate weeds and keep and subdue the seeds in sprout.

The conclusion is, 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 without following other steps.

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

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